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Greek PM visits Beijing amid fragile EU-China balances

8 months ago 40

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis will meet on Thursday top Chinese officials to make Greece a “bridge” between the European Union and China, Greek media quoted a government source as saying at a time when relations between the two are fragile.

“Greece can act as a bridge between the EU and China for a more balanced relationship,” a government source told local media before the visit.

Mitsotakis will meet China’s President Xi Jinping as well as Chinese Prime Minister Li Qiang, and he will be accompanied by the Minister of Infrastructure and Transport, Christos Staikouras and the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, in charge of Economic Affairs, Costas Fragogiannis.

The source explained that Mitsotakis is expected to repeat to his interlocutors Greece’s position on the need for open communication channels with China and closer cooperation in dealing with global challenges “so that relations are constructive and mutually beneficial”.

According to the same source, Greece aims to strengthen bilateral trade relations and increase exports to China, especially in the agricultural and standardised products sectors.

Moreover, the increase in the number of tourists from China is also on the agenda.

The visit highlights growing tensions between Washington, Brussels and Beijing.

Europe is cautiously taking its first steps to decrease its dependence on China in several fields, producing, refining and recycling such as critical materials, while the US often complains about Chinese investments in Greece.

Speaking at an event organised by The Economist earlier this week, Mitsotakis made it clear that Athens is not dependent on Chinese funds.

“China is not a major investor for Greece, given that it has only made one major investment in the port of Piraeus years ago, which was certainly successful overall”, the Greek leader said.

In early September, Dutch Foreign Trade Minister Liesje Schreinemacher (VVD/Renew) said effective EU policy-making towards China is hampered by certain EU member states, like Greece, being too dependent on the East Asian country.

When asked about the concerns of businesses regarding EU screening mechanisms for foreign investments, Schreinemacher pointed towards the Dutch Security test for investments, mergers and acquisitions (Vifo), which checks foreign influence in Dutch strategic sectors.

“Not every European member state has such a test yet. We want them to because otherwise, you get a waterbed effect: then investors go to those countries,” Schreinemacher stated.

“Take, for example, the Greek port of Piraeus, owned by a Chinese state-owned company. That also makes an effective China policy more difficult in the European context because, in this case, Greece is dependent on China,” she added.

(Sarantis Michalopoulos | Euractiv.com)

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