Greece and China sign 16 bilateral agreements during President Jinping’s visit to Athens 

APThanasis Stavrakis

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Greece and China have signed 16 bilateral agreements outlining cooperation in a broad range of sectors during Chinese President Xi Jinping's visit to Athens.

The 16 government and business agreements signed between the two countries Monday include sectors as diverse as extradition, agricultural exports, education, energy, the airline industry and additional Cosco investments in Piraeus.

The agreements also include the opening of a Bank of China branch in Athens, a representation office of the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China in Athens and an office of the China Development Bank.

"It is a road we are opening, that will soon become a highway," Mitsotakis said.

"China and Greece are partners for the establishment of one belt, one road. This initiative must be strengthened by the further development of your country. We look forward to implementing partnerships in many areas and we want to strengthen Piraeus's role in transit and further enhance the transport capacity of the China-Europe land-to-sea express line," the President of the People's Republic of China, Xi Jinping said.

"We want the trade to continue, an expansion of bilateral trade and mutual investments, as well as to have investments in the energy, transport and banking sectors," the Chinese President said and added:

"We will organise and host a year of culture and tourism between our two countries in 2021 and we want to enhance the teaching of our languages and strengthen contacts between academic communities so that we can get to know our cultures better."

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*PM Mitsotakis and President Jinping tour Cosco's facilities

The Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and the President Jinping, toured Cosco's facilities at Neo Ikonio Peramatos in Piraeus, at the Piraeus Container Terminal, on Monday afternoon, accompanied by their spouses Mareva Grabowski-Mitsotaki and Peng Liyuan.

The two statesmen received a warm welcome by workers at Cosco, who were holding Chinese and Greek flags.

China's state-owned shipping giant Cosco controls Greece's largest port of Piraeus, near Athens, and Beijing is keen to boost Chinese investment in Greece as part of its global "Belt and Road" investment initiative.

*PM Mitsotakis, Chinese President Jinping and Greece's President Pavlopoulos

Mitsotakis said the aim was for Piraeus to become not just the largest port in the Mediterranean but the largest port in Europe, and he said he appreciated that China "supported Greece when Greece was going through its economic crisis."

"Both sides see China and Greece as natural partners for building the Belt and Road," Xi said after meeting with PM Mitsotakis. "We would like to mesh the Belt and Road initiative more closely with the development strategy of this country."

Xi said both countries would "fully leverage" Piraeus' shipment capabilities and strengthen the China-Europe Land-Sea Express Line, a trade route between China and Europe that on land connects Piraeus with Budapest in Hungary.

*Official dinner held at the Presidential Mansion

Greek President Prokopios Pavlopoulos also hosted an official dinner held in honor of his Chinese counterpart, at the Presidential Mansion on Monday evening, in the presence of Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and his wife Mareva Grabowski Mitsotaki.

Pavlopoulos noted how the strategic relationship between the two countries has now substantially upgraded since 2006 when Cosco's investment at the port of Piraeus began to take shape.

APThanasis Stavrakis
*Image by AP/ Thanasis Stavrakis

Greeks are ready to tread on this new path of growth and development, said Pavlopoulos, as is evident from the fact that "we are already actively involved in the Belt and Road and the 17+1 initiatives," and added that in this context of collaboration "Greece feels satisfied, because the vision of peaceful and creative coexistence between the West and the East is starting to come true."

Pavlopoulos concluded by emphasizing that the close cultural ties between the two countries are shielding their bilateral relations, as these, he said, are anchored in both countries' ancient civilizations, "cultures that achieve harmonious coexistence because they focus on people and the peaceful coexistence of all humans.