Cash-strapped Greece played host yesterday to Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao (溫家寶), hoping to drum up sorely needed investment as Athens battles to emerge from an unprecedented debt crisis.
Athens was Wen’s first port of call on a European tour, with the Greek government eager to build on the success of existing Chinese investment in the country where shipping giant Cosco (中國遠洋控股) is expanding facilities at the main harbor.
The Chinese premier arrived in the Greek capital in the mid--afternoon with a delegation of ministers and businesspeople in tow, including Cosco head Wei Jiafu (魏家福) and central bank Governor Zhou Xiaochuan (周小川), airport officials said.
Wen was to sign bilateral agreements on investment and tourism with Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou and private sector accords on shipping, construction and technology, Papandreou’s office said.
Athens is desperate for investment as the country struggles to claw its way out of a deep -recession and a debt crisis that drove it to the brink of bankruptcy in May.
Crippled by debts of nearly 300 billion euros (US$414 billion), the country became the first eurozone member to need a financial bailout with a 110 billion euro EU and IMF rescue package.
After beginning his seven-day European tour in Greece with a three-day visit, Wen is to head to Belgium for summits with EU leaders before visiting Italy and Turkey.
Greece has for years sought Chinese investment on the grounds that the country’s location offers a strategic springboard in the Balkans for trade between Asia and southern Europe.
As Athens prepares to sell off state assets to raise desperately needed cash, Greek officials have tried to capitalize on the crisis by arguing that it makes Greece a good bargain for Chinese investors.
Ahead of the visit, Papandreou said in an interview with Chinese news agency Xinhua that it was “a show of a very strong strategic relationship we are developing.”