Greek Economy and Development Deputy Minister Stergios Pitsiorlas receives an interview with Xinhua in Athens, Greece on May 22, 2017. After the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation hosted in Beijing on May 14-15 and the successful cooperation at Greece's largest Piraeus port, the future of Sino-Greek cooperation in all sectors will be bright, Greek Economy and Development Deputy Minister Stergios Pitsiorlas told Xinhua in a recent interview in Athens. (Xinhua/Marios Lolos)
By Maria Spiliopoulou
ATHENS, May 23 (Xinhua) -- After the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation hosted in Beijing on May 14-15 and the successful cooperation at Greece's largest Piraeus port, the future of Sino-Greek cooperation in all sectors will be bright, Greek Economy and Development Deputy Minister Stergios Pitsiorlas told Xinhua in a recent interview in Athens.
As a member of the Greek delegation led by Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras to the forum, Pitsiorlas witnessed once again the great importance attached to bilateral collaboration in the framework of construction under the Belt and Road Initiative.
The signing of a three-year-action plan between Greece and China in Beijing which will be the basis of economic cooperation from now on, new initiatives undertaken to strengthen peoples to peoples contacts and the deep-rooted mutual respect between Greeks and Chinese make Pitsiorlas more optimistic than ever that Sino-Greek collaboration will flourish in coming years.
The Greek official was impressed by the numerous delegations and the highest level of participation at the Beijing forum which he regards as a very significant event for international economy that reflected a new reality. The significance of the Initiative taken by China and Chinese President Xi Jinping was obvious to all delegates and the world, he said.
"It was a very successful event and regarding Greece the presence was remarkable and showed the great possibilities in Sino-Greek relations... Greece is indeed a country which can hold a key role -- can play the role of the bridge between the West and the East. This was clearly demonstrated at the forum," Pitsiorlas said.
The Belt and Road Initiative was proposed by President Xi Jinping in 2013 with an aim to build trade and infrastructure networks connecting Asia with Europe and Africa along the ancient Silk Road routes. It comprises the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road.
Pitsiorlas said the action plan creates the framework for economic collaboration in coming years and opens the way for very significant cooperation between Greek and Chinese companies and large investments.
The Greek deputy minister appeared confident that Greece can attract a high percentage of investments in particular regarding infrastructure projects in the sectors of transport, energy and telecommunications.
The creation of networks in these sectors is a high priority for the Greek government at the moment, because they will be the basis for economic development and economic cooperation, he said.
The first samples of this new cooperation framework, Pitsiorlas noted, were the two agreements signed in Beijing in the sectors of energy and telecommunications.
China's Shenhua Group Corp Ltd., the largest coal producer in the world and one of the largest energy producers of conventional and renewable sources in the country, and Greece's Copelouzos Group, signed an agreement for cooperation in the "green" energy sector and in the environmental upgrading of power generating units in Greece and other countries.
The estimated value of investment will reach three billion euros (3.37 billion U.S. dollars), while the second deal between Greece's Forthnet and Chinese company ZTE is of 500 million euros worth.
Sino-Greek harmonious and win-win cooperation at Greece's largest port in the past seven years has paved the way to promote bilateral collaboration in many fields, Pirsiorlas stressed.
China COSCO Shipping acquired a majority stake in Piraeus Port Authority (PPA) and took over the management last year after winning an international tender increasing the company's presence at the port following the first investment at Piraeus Container Terminal which coincided with the start of the Greek debt crisis.
"There were difficulties but eventually there was a very good agreement and already one year later we can say that this cooperation progresses smoothly posting impressive results. We have left the problems behind. With the experience of cooperation at Piraeus I think that the future will be very bright for cooperation between the two countries," Pitsiorlas said.
It was reasonable to face some problems at Piraeus in the first stage, as it was the first time such a large concession agreement was made in Greece, he explained.
"I believe that from now there will be far fewer problems and obstacles in our cooperation. We have understood each other in the process. We have learnt how each side thinks and works and therefore everything will be easier from now on," he said.
After closely cooperating with the Chinese side over the past year and a half for Piraeus port privatization, Pitsiorlas has reached some conclusions on how Sino-Greek cooperation can proceed.
"I believe the existing mutual respect is of great importance. Obviously, neither Greek nor Chinese are easy in negotiations. However, the fact is that there is respect and honesty between us. I believe we are building an excellent relation. And it will not be limited to economic ties. It will be a relation between the two societies and the two peoples," he said.
"It would be very good if the two peoples can form relations. I believe we have entered this road," he added.
Asked about Greece's cooperation with its international lenders, Pitsiorlas admitted it was not rosy, but expressed optimism the hardest part for recession hit Greeks is over and the ailing economy will see better days soon.
"Athens' cooperation with the creditors is difficult. We have implemented a very difficult and heavy program. But now we are reaching the end. The implementation of this program will end in 2018," the Greek official said.
"Greece adjusted to the new standards of global economy. There have been very important reforms which today create a friendly environment for investors and the basis to allow the Greek economy to grow very fast in coming years," he noted, pointing to the positive side of the sacrifices Greek people made in recent years.
Following the conclusion of the second review of Greece's third bailout since 2010, Athens intends to move forward quickly to exit the crisis.
During 2017, Greece will attempt to tap the international markets and in 2018 to stabilize its presence in international markets so that it will no longer need support from creditors with loans, Pitsiorlas said.