June 21st, 2017 – Fort Russ News –
– Gli occhi della guerra – – translated by Frederick Assar –
With the debt crisis, which plagued Greek economy by depleting not just the state but also millions of people, the government in Athens has long sought for greater flexibility in Europe, failing miserably. The European Union, while addressing some of the demands made by the Tsipras government, has never questioned the austerity logic of the aid plan and the consolidation of public accounts. Over the years, the Brussels recipe has failed. For this reason, Greece has been forced to turn its attention away from its supposed European allies, towards other powers that, obviously not for humanitarian, yet sensible reasons, have made it easy to propose useful solutions to everyone. That is how that communion of intent was born today that binds small Greece with the Chinese giant. An alliance covering several different fields, from transport, to credit and to energy. An alliance turning Athens in a real bridgehead between China and the European Union.
Confirmation for this comes with the news that the Greek government vetoed a statement by the European Union against China last week, asking to condemn Beijing at the United Nations for the repression of dissents. This is a very important decision, having a sensible influence on the human rights reports dynamics, in which the Member States of the European Union have always found a common framework of reference. This time, however, Europe fails to find unity in the face of a “humanitarian” issue and reveals signs pointing at an internal crisis – one that isn’t just related to the demonized concept of “populism”. With this action, Greece has pragmatically shown what having an autonomous foreign policy with respect to the rigid protocols in Brussels means. Athens didn’t take this decision due to unawareness of the problems connected to freedom of expression, but because it values its international relations more than those with the European Union. Between China and the EU, Athens chose Beijing, being fully aware that whilst from the European side come the tears and the threats of bankruptcy and exclusion from the Union, money and technology come from China.
China has long begun an investment plan for Greece that allows Athens to pay salaries, maintain the infrastructures and sustain the impact of debt repayment plans as well as interests. China has capital to invest, trade empowerments to be created and a new Silk Road to be implemented, with Greece being one of the terminals where to channel Beijing’s global investments. In 2015, the Chinese giant Cosco bought most of the Piraeus port for a total of 368.5 million Euros, 280 million of which were cashed in Athens for 51% of the port area and the other 88 million will be delivered after five years for the acquisition of a further 6%, but only for completed compulsory infrastructure investments. On June 17, with reference to the port of Piraeus, Cosco, the Piraeus port authority, and the port of Shanghai concluded an agreement that provides for a great collaboration between the Chinese and the Greek ports, effectively transforming Piraeus in a freight hub from the gigantic port of the Far East.
China’s interests in Greece are several and multi-faceted, and the crisis can only help investments by lowering their costs. The Beijing funds are interested in strategic sectors of the Greek economy, which – for Chinese companies – are very attractive assets, by reason of the weak local competition due to the devastation of the Greek state system and the impoverishment of local entrepreneurship. Beijing’s interests span from boating, tourism, road and port networks to real estate – anywhere big Chinese companies and funds from the central state can find a place to become sector leaders. Dalian Wanda, one of the Chinese investment giants, is interested in many areas of the Greek economy, and is ready to invest in less strategic, but equally profitable sectors such as football. The same fund owns a third of Atletico Madrid.
In this sense, European policy towards Greece has revealed the embarrassing short circuit in Brussels. The European machine first let Athens become indebted as long as it stayed in the euro, then, once it collapsed, it attacked the Aegean Nation with cuts and financial manoeuvres aimed at weakening even more its economy. In so doing, the European Union has left Greece to look after itself. And so Greece did, by looking for extra-European partners thus safeguarding its autonomy from Europe whilst simultaneously entering the orbit of Beijing. For Athens, Chinese investment means survival and growth. For Beijing it means winning a market and an ally. For the European Union, yet another defeat.