Visiting Chinese President Xi Jinping on Monday afternoon toured the facility that comprises the biggest Chinese direct investment in Greece, the Piraeus Port Authority (PPA), one of a handful of iconic privatizations in the country that were essentially finalized due to the punishing economic crisis over the past few years.
Xi was accompanied on his tour of the Cosco-managed and majority owned PPA by Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and a large delegation of both visiting Chinese officials and Greek ministers.
Shanghai-based shipping multinational Cosco, a state-run company, assumed control of Greece's largest and busiest port in August 2016, with a then leftist SYRIZA government acquiescing to institutional creditors' pressure to implement privatizations listed in the third memorandum bailout. Cosco will eventually pay 1.5 billion euros to acquire up to 67 percent for PPA, after having already purchased 51 percent of the port authority.
One main topic up for discussion this week in talks between the Xi-led Chinese delegation and the Mitsotakis government is an effort to implement a 600-million-euro master plan on top of Cosco's concession obligations, weeks after certain projects in the plan failed to receive a ministry "ok", including an expansion of the port to build a new container terminal. A total of 300 million euros of obligatory investments are due by 2022.
"We want to boost the transit role of Piraeus and its transport capacity on a fast communication sea-land route between China and Europe," the Chinese president said from Piraeus.
On his part, the Greek prime minister said Piraeus now has the prospect of not only being the busiest port in the Mediterranean - a standing Cosco goal - but also the biggest in Europe.
The contacts and the PPA tour coincided with an auspicious development the same day, with the EIB announcing that it will lend 140 million to the port authority to support its expansion and upgrading.
The specific EIB loan will be the biggest ever extended in Greece for port facilities.