BUSINESS

Greek ministers set for charm offensives in Moscow, Beijing

By Ilias Bellos

The government is said to be trying to bring Moscow and Beijing to the negotiation table for the privatization of Piraeus and Thessaloniki ports, the Thrassio transit center and rail service operator TRAINOSE in order to secure financial support.

These are projects of high added value for the Greek economy and will be at the focus of top-level visits to Russia and China by Greek officials in the coming weeks. What is at issue is whether they will be conceded via international tender – as the government has said they will – or through bilateral agreements, which are allowed between European Union members and third countries but are subject to EU competition rules.

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras is due to visit Moscow on April 8 escorted by National Defense Minister Panos Kammenos, who will return to the Russian capital nine days later. Their agenda, besides energy and defense issues, will include Russian interest in the port of Thessaloniki and in TRAINOSE.

Meanwhile, while Beijing has repeatedly stated its desire for a strong and united eurozone, with Greece obviously a member, sources say that it is reluctant to risk harming ties with the EU by intervening in the Greek-European discourse. Deputy Prime Minister Yiannis Dragasakis, Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias and State Minister Nikos Pappas will be visiting China with his in mind.

The Greek mission is departing for Beijing on Tuesday on a five-day visit, but it is not yet known whether the Greek ministers will be able to meet with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, in a rapidly deteriorating international climate for Greece.

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