Speech of Nikoletta Kaperoni - Greece

28 May 2021
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China-CEEC 17+1: the role and significance of Greece

Ladies and gentlemen, distinguished guests,

I feel much honored to represent Greece and participate to this China-CEEC Cooperation Seminar, here in Ningbo, a historic cultural and tourist city with beautiful landscape, developed industries, prosperous economy, a famous international port-city and a city of culture.  Please allow me to take the opportunity to express my sincere appreciation to all people of CCPIT Ningbo for their contributions to the development of China-Greece relations and the friendly exchanges between us.

Two thousand years ago, the ancient Silk Road brought China and Greece together, with the two great civilizations in the East and West complementing each other. Confucius, Socrates, and other philosophers have left indelible marks on the history of human civilization. Today, with the deepening of globalization, the Belt and Road Initiative, which is rooted in the spirit of the ancient Silk Road, is bringing China and Greece closer.

In recent years, China and Greece have made important achievements in cooperation in the spirit of mutual respect and understanding for the benefit of both sides. Today, Greece is playing an increasingly important role in safeguarding regional peace and promoting common growth and has become an important contributor to the development of the “Belt and Road” which is the “Project of the century.”

China-Greece comprehensive strategic partnership is now entering a new stage of development. We should be highly confident, seize the opportunities, redouble our efforts, and elevate mutually-beneficial cooperation to new levels for the benefit of all the participating members in 17+1.

The "Initiative CEEC-CHINA 16 + 1" is now "17 + 1" with the integration of Greece. We can work together to create cooperation networks, but also build bridges of cooperation in areas such as trade, investment, agriculture, science, technology, education culture, tourism, infrastructure, connectivity, further strengthening the cooperation and the friendship between all member countries. This conference is an excellent example of such cooperation. 

Greece is a country that has recovered from a heavy economic crisis and today it highlights and exploits the significant advantage given by its geographical position to the reunification of three continents, Asia, Africa and Europe. Also, Greece can play a constructive role in China's relationship with the European Union, which should be based on a market-based platform within EU framework. 

On August 27th 2018, China and Greece agreed to cooperate on developing the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) as their foreign ministers signed a memorandum of Understanding.

Also, a new three-year Framework for Co-operation (2020-2022) was signed in Beijing recently by Greek Foreign Minister and Mr. Zhang Yong deputy head of China's National Development and Reform Commission, in the presence of the prime ministers of the two countries focuses on energy, transport, telecommunications, manufacturing, research, development, investment and banking.  

All of the above reflects the loser ties between China and Greece. China considers Greece as a long-term and reliable strategic partner, appreciates the important role it plays in the development of the Belt and Road initiative.

Chinese business giants as COSCO Shipping, State Grid, Shenhua Group, Huawei and ZTE, have already entered the Greek market and play a leading role in this respect.

The Chinese President Mr. Xi Jinping said: "The goal of the BRI initiative coincides with the goal of becoming a regional logistical and transport hub of international importance. The 17+1 cooperation is an important part of China-Europe relations. Guided by the principles of peace, cooperation, openness, inclusiveness, mutual learning and mutual benefit, China will foster a stronger synergy between the BRI and development strategies of CEE countries on the basis of consultation and collaboration for shared benefits”

The Belt & Road Initiative has two main elements: the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road. The 21st Century Maritime Silk Road is a planned sea route with integrated port and coastal infrastructure projects running from China’s east coast to Europe, India, Africa and the Pacific through the South China Sea and the Indian Ocean. Greece has a strategic, best positioning in the sea route of the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road.

Following the acquisition of the Port of Piraeus with a 35-year contract by Chinese commercial giant COSCO, Greece has become a very important transportation hub for Chinese products which are to reach other EU countries by rail transport and the Middle East. The deal is also expected to bring major investment in infrastructure. The cooperation with COSCO has made Piraeus the second largest port in the Mediterranean and it is moving toward first place. Piraeus, the fastest growing port in the world, will be the largest port in the Mediterranean by 2019, displacing Hamburg from third place in Europe. The COSCO Piraeus project has not only increased the number of containers handled in the port, but has also led helped the development growth of cruise ship business tourism, ship-building and repair, and logistics services in the local area, as well as bringing job growth.

Greek PM described Greece as a “bridge,” and not a border: "Greece today exploits its unique geopolitical position in the reunion of three continents as well as its role as a world-wide force in shipping and tourism. We want our neighborhood, the Mediterranean Sea and the Balkans not to be the border between the West and the East, but to be the bridge between the West and the East”. 

What are the advantages of Greece being for China a “Bridge” to Europe?

  • Greece is a ”key” to China’s Belt and Road Initiative, which aims to link China by sea with Southeast and Central Europe, the Middle East and Africa, through the lines of the old sea Silk Road, will bring China closer to the European Union.
  • Bridges symbolize China’s friendship, cooperation with CEE countries
  • Bridges represent connection and communication, and it’s an image widely embraced by cultures worldwide. It is also a sign of broad prospects and hope. 

China-CEEC cooperation booster for European integration:

— can help in approaching EU markets wider and enhance services facilitation cooperation on China-Europe Land Sea Express Line,

- can help in establishing a logistics hub to speed up cross-border flow of goods,

-can help in the set-up of more overseas warehouses and exhibition and sales centers in CEE countries to explore more trading channels.

 - can help in expanding the areas in trade in agricultural products: can help of Chinese consumers with a better health as they will consume the added value Greek pure honey, fruits, dairy and meat products and other farm products from CEE countries to meet their needs. 

- can help, also, the trade from China to EU markets in mechanical and electrical products such as automobiles and home appliances, trade in high-quality, high-tech and high value-added products such as manufactured equipment as China is the largest manufacturer in the world.

- can establish triangular relations around infrastructure projects in the Balkans and the Eastern Mediterranean”. - can make the region a global hub of transport, energy and commerce, thus strengthening EU-China cooperation, within the framework of international rules. 

Cooperation in the following fields: 

  • Exports from Greece- Imports to China: Greece can contribute to better health and long living for the Chinese people with its "added value" products such as the extra virgin olive oil "the golden olive tree juice" the excellent honey, the natural cosmetics, the unique Greek wines, superfoods and juices. As a representative of the Greek-Chinese Union, I represent many small and medium-sized businesses in Greece, facing difficulties in entering the Chinese market despite the fact that they produce or create products and services with high added value. Many small and medium-sized businesses in Greece are struggling with the size, regulations and distance of the Chinese market. Therefore, we should encourage those companies to export to export their products to the CEEC-China markets.

When compared with other European countries, China-Greece economic cooperation is still at its initial stages, despite its rapid progress growth. Chinese businesses lack understanding about the comparative advantages of the Greek market, industries, products, as well as the rules and regulations that apply in Greece. Also, many small and medium enterprises in Greece feel overwhelmed by the size, complexity and distance of the Chinese market. Therefore, CEEC-China should encourage making business exchanges and facilitate all transactions.

  • Also we can have cooperation in organizing trips, host forums and seminars, thus making business exchanges between the all countries easier and more beneficial for all.
  • There is a big potential in tourism cooperation: Greece’s population is about 9 million people but a total of 33 million peoplevisited destinations in Greece within 2018, generating more than 16 billion euros in revenues. Investment in tourism is booming these years.
  • We can support civil aviation cooperation, encourage communication between airline companies, and look into the feasibility of opening more direct flights especially the charter flights.
  • Health & wellness tourism: Greece is a top health destination.
  • Smart and Green technologies: The prosperity of the peoples is obviously and must go through the exploitation of new technologies.
  • Set-up R&D (research and development) centers: especially in application of big data and artificial intelligence, foster clusters of emerging industries and strengthen the digital economy.
  • Manufacturing sector and high-tech sectors: Many Chinese manufactures face problems with EU compliance standards. They can make the assembly in CEEC countries and be easily in the EU markets from a CEEC market!
  • Investments in various fields.

We should keep in mind that at the end of the day, the continuous expansion and deepening of economic cooperation depends on market demands and business efforts.

So, how should businesses of the CEEC countries proceed with cooperation in the future?

In my view, first of all, they should use take advantage of every single opportunity to enhance mutual understanding.

Second, the businesses communities of the CEEC countries should forge synergies, improve the comprehensive benefits of investment, and promote economic development in more extensive areas to the benefit advantage of the peoples of the CEEC countries.

Third, businesses of the CEEC countries should bear in mind a larger picture, and set and ambitious goals in order to work with other players in the region for common development.

The enterprises of the countries should make the best use of CEEC, and widely engage with businesses of the region.

 

It would be very positive for all participants to strengthen interpersonal contacts and trade relations in order to promote bilateral cooperation.

I am glad to have the opportunity to share with you views and suggestions on various fields of win-win cooperation through promoting innovation-driven development.

We wish to join hands within CEEC and work together to further integrate our development strategies, to commit to shared growth through discussion and collaboration, expand practical collaboration, achieve complementary advantages, deepen people-to-people exchanges, and finally, create a model of win-win cooperation between our different systems and different cultures peacefully coexisting with each other, thus building together a community of shared future for all members of CHINA-CEEC.    

 

Vision for the future the modern Silk Road: "The modern Silk Road can be a vision and an initiative with an extremely important focus on the future. In the context of the development of EU-China relations, in the context of our integrated, strategic, corporate, bilateral relationship, within the framework of this Initiative and the 17 + 1 Initiative, we have brilliant prospects ahead of us. "

Ladies and gentlemen,

President Xi said: “Openness leads to progress… to promote common prosperity and development in today’s world; we have no choice but to pursue greater connectivity and integrated development”.

We are entering a new era and it's the perfect time to sail with a favorable wind arising.

Let's seize the opportunity to set sail and steer the great ship of CHINA-CCEC relations to go even farther, heading to a brighter future with golden opportunities for development. 

Finally, I wish this conference a great success and I wish to all of you good health and happiness.

Thank you.

 

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