Greece’s new government has had to back off from one of its anti-austerity plans for Piraeus, the country’s biggest port.
As well as halting the privatization of two thirds of the port, it wanted to renegotiate a 35-year deal with Chinese shipping firm COSCO to expand the two main container terminals there.
But Economy Minister Giorgos Stathakis admitted to euronews it can’t be done: “We will go on with what has been agreed by the previous government. That is a straightforward statement. We have very close contacts with China, and things will be quite clear and in favour of going on with a number of initiatives that they have started.”
Late last year, the previous prime minister, Antonis Samaras, agreed the expansion deal, which was a conditions of the EU-IMF bailout.
The Chinese state-run company called it an example of “mutually beneficial and win-win cooperation” that would create 3,000 jobs at one of the largest and busiest Mediterranean ports.
Given its major involvement COSCO was considered a front runner in bidding to take a majority stake.
The other bidders were Maersk’s APM Terminals, Ports America, Philippines firm International Container Terminals and the investment company Utilico Emerging Markets.
Our reporter covering the story in Athens, Symela Touchtidou, said an agreement for COSCO to run two of the port’s three container terminals resulting in a sharp rise in traffic, but now the new government’s relations with Beijing is being tested: “The first phase of the privatisation of the Piraeus Port is one of the very few success stories the Greek state was able to present on the privatisation front.
“Since that started, in 2008, the movement of commercial containers from the port of Pireaus has risen by 130 percent. But now the relationship between the new Greek government and the Chinese investors is hanging by a thread.”