Experts in Greece praised the growth of the Piraeus port under the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) during a two-day seminar here.
“Greece historically has been a trading state and has a huge maritime industry,” Athanasios Platias, a professor at the University of Piraeus said. “So naturally, Greece (is) fitted to this initiative because Greek ships were part of the Maritime Silk Road and Piraeus is a successful example.”
Greek and Chinese experts gathered at the port city of Piraeus to discuss the Belt and Road at a two-day seminar held on Friday and Saturday titled “China, Greece and the Eastern Mediterranean.” The event was a joint initiative by the Aikaterini Laskaridis Foundation in Greece and the Tsinghua University in China.
“It is a win-win deal because Piraeus has become very important. It is good for Greece,” commented Charalambos Papasotiriou, professor of international relations and strategic studies at the Panteion University of Social and Political Sciences.
“It also was a profitable investment for COSCO (China Ocean Shipping (Group) Company and very good for Chinese exports,” he added.
Located on the Mediterranean about 10 km southwest of the Greek capital Athens, Piraeus is Europe’s “southern gateway.” The port is currently operated by COSCO Shipping and has become one of the fastest growing container ports in the world.
Chinese experts believe the BRI proposed in 2013 has helped opened up new areas of cooperation for China and Greece.
“The Belt and Road Initiative benefits not only China but also the countries along the route and European countries, like Greece,” Zhang Lihua, Director of the Research Center for China-EU Relations at the Tsinghua University, said. “The initiative can promote infrastructure construction in countries in Central Asia, Central and Eastern Europe and some countries in Africa.”
“Today the initiative is not limited to infrastructure. It’s starting to expand to electricity, the digital economy and other areas,” Zhang added.
In the opinion of Zhao Kejin, deputy dean of the Tsinghua School of Social Sciences, the BRI can be interpreted as a new plan for globalisation.
It is not antagonistic, but is a cooperative scheme aiming to build a shared future through increased contact among governments, collaboration among businesses and interactions among people, said Zhao.