The visit of Greek Shipping Minister Theodore Dritsas in China is perhaps the most significant development of Sino-Greek relations after the Greek election of 20 September 2015. Although the official purpose of the visit is the participation of the Greek Minister in the ‘World Ocean Week’ which will be held in Xiamen and in the closing ceremony for the ‘2015 Greece-China Maritime Co-operation Year’, the future privatisation of the Piraeus Port Authority will certainly dominate discussions. Mr Dritsas belongs to Greek politicians who ideologically disagree with this privatisation but should now accept this perspective in order to comply with the Greek bailout terms. In that regard, his visit also acquires a symbolic character.
It is expected that Beijing will step up its pressure on the Greek side to quickly proceed with the process of the sale of the Piraeus Port Authority. COSCO is highly interested in expanding its investments in Piraeus but it has not yet submitted its offer because Greece is not ready. The new deadline given by the relative Greek Fund for companies wishing to participate in the tender is that of 3 December 2015. Until this date bureaucratic problems have to be solved, the new legal status of the Piraeus Port Authority should be given and necessary legal approvals need also to be given.
In recent months Beijing has continuously warned Athens that investments cannot wait. More importantly, it has already taken noteworthy pre-emptive measures such as the Kumport terminal deal as the Turkish port was bought by a Chinese consortium. The visit of Greek Shipping Minister in China might be the last opportunity of the Greek government to benefit by Chinese investments in the country by proposing a comprehensive package of agreements.