Greece’s Minister for Development and Investment, Adonis Georgiades in an interview with Handelsblatt entitled “We Are Again a Stable Country”, heralded the privatisation of ports, even if there were no Western investors. “We belong to the West and that is where we want to stay,” he said, noting that this statement is not directed against China.
When asked about his meeting with his German counterpart, Peter Altmayer last week in Berlin, he noted that the focus was on changing the perception of many German businessmen about Greece. “Many in Germany have not yet realised that in Greece we did not just have a change of government. In the meantime, we are again a stable country, with no riots and strikes. In addition, we have improved the business environment, including through tax breaks,” he said.
Mr. Georgiadis also pointed out that where German companies have invested, they have had great success, using Fraport and Deutsche as an example, in the hope that more will follow. He added that traditionally Germany is the largest foreign investor for Greece, but also that there is a great deal of interest from China and the US. “We owe it to Germany to stay in the eurozone. And if fewer German companies now come to us, the result will be that we have had the difficult times with Germany and now reap the rest. It is not a good idea!”
When asked about concerns expressed in the EU suggesting that Chinese investments in Greece are more geostrategic than economic in nature, he replied: “When we first offered the first shares for Piraeus Port, Cosco was the only one interested. When we privatised the rest in 2016, again Cosco was the only one to bid. Cosco’s investment in Piraeus is the most lucrative in the world (…) If some in Europe are not so happy with China’s involvement, then I urge them: “Come on!” In the upcoming privatisations, we want to attract European and other Western companies. But one thing should be clear to everyone: We will privatise the ports.”
He also welcomed the possibility of the port of Piraeus co-operating with the port of Duisburg, the largest inland port in Europe. “If this is achieved, Cosco will double its potential in Piraeus over the next four years. This is a huge undertaking, as Cosco has already doubled the volume of cargoes transported in the last decade. But for this reason, a rail link with Central Europe is needed, “he added.
Answering a question about Athens’ attitude towards China, the Minister stressed that the government respects China and thanked it for being on the side of Greece. “In any case, however, we want to keep the balance and be able to abide by European decisions at all times. For example, what about 5G mobile networks and which companies will build them,” he explained.