Chinese Invade Greece as Brussels Fume.
- Written by E.Tsiliopoulos
As the BBC has been pointing out in a series of recent articles on its website "a growing business relationship is developing between China and crisis-ridden Greece." And in a very real sense it's true.
One can see it on the streets of Athens, where you now meet small groups, couples, or even organized flocks of Chinese tourists. Trips of Greeks to China have increased as well, but the people heading eastwards are searching for business opportunities, rather than sights and souvenirs.
Chinese companies are also looking to Greece as a foothold for a commercial invasion of the EU heartland through its economically exposed underbelly. As we reported today Chinese electronics firm EZT is planning to establish Piraeus as its logistics hubs, abandoning the circuitous route to Rotterdam. It is obviously following in the footsteps of COSCO, the Chinese container shipping giant that has turned Piraeus into a record-breaking off-loading center for Chinese products, since 2008.
COSCO has already established a firm footing in Piraeus, where the pier(s) (Pier II and half of Pier III) it has under long-term lease is turning the port into a veritable beehive of activity.
This has led to thoughts by many Chinese firms of establishing joint firms and plants on Greek soil to carry out insignificant assembly operations, but which will offer them access to EU ISO certification, and the all precious "made in the EU" rubber stamp, as well as providing overland access to Europe.
All this of course is still at an immature stage, with reactions from many quarters, not least of all from the EU itself. The intensification of operations at the port has led unions to decry working conditions as medieval, with detractors counter-posing that before workers were raking in undeserved pay for services not rendered.
The EU, in an official letter a few days ago, asked the relevant Greek ministries to clarify several points of the deal between the government and COSCO about the lease of Pier III at Piraeus. This is not the first such correspondence, however the latest missive wants specific answers on 23 different points of the agreement, some of which present specific legal problems, like whether the deal is an extension of the deal to manage Pier II, (originally signed in 2008), and why have guaranteed annual least levies to the state have been abrogated to the company's benefit.
The government has been playing a hide and seek game with the EU Commission hoping that after the deal is finalized it will be able to justify its moves to the Commission.
At the same time, the government has also been bending over backwards, to supply the Chinese with infrastructure to conduct their business in the most facile way possible, like providing a railroad extension to their front door.
COSCO has also been on the ball saying openly that they are interested in acquiring controlling shares in the the Piraeus Port Authority (OLP), something which the government is keen to listen to, under its present fervor to sell off state assets.
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