Wen visit a ‘vote of confidence’

Both the Greek and Chinese governments have high expectations from the visit by China’s Premier Wen Jiabao to Athens, starting today through Monday, the first of its kind in more than two decades. The arrival of the Chinese premier comes at a high point in the two countries’ relations, as both Athens and Beijing have been stressing, with Prime Minister George Papandreou saying the visit «is the epitome of the dynamism and the friendship between the two people.» «We are receiving him in great cordiality. This visit illustrates the very strong strategic relationship we are developing to the benefit of both sides,» Papandreou told Chinese news agency Xinhua yesterday. «This is the first time in 24 years that a Chinese head of government visits Greece, which deepens the comprehensive strategic relationship of China with Greece,» said China’s ambassador to Athens, Luo Linquan, to the same agency. «China has given a vote of confidence to Greece’s prospects,» he added. The shipping sector will be at the focus of discussions, given that the two countries own the two biggest fleets in the world. Shipbuilding will also garner attention, as Greeks consign hundreds of ships to be built by Chinese shipyards. Papandreou emphasized that «there is scope for more cooperation in the potential of Greek shipowners combined with the the Chinese economy’s need for the growth.» He added: «We will work toward attracting Chinese tourists, promoting a direct air link with China.» Athens promotes Beijing’s interest in strengthening its presence in this country – the main point of entry for Chinese products to many Balkan and European markets – as a significant boost to the country’s profile as a country that is attractive for investment. «Greece is an opportunity for China,» State Minister Haris Paboukis said yesterday.» Immediately after his arrival in Athens today, Wen will meet with Papandreou at the prime minister’s office. The plan is for the two to sign cooperation agreements in the trade, shipping, shipbuilding and tourism sectors. In the afternoon, they will visit the port of Piraeus. Premier Wen will speak tomorrow in Parliament, pay a visit on President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias and meet with New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras. He will be accompanied on his visit to Greece by Chinese shipping company Cosco’s president, Captain Wei Jiafu, who is expected to sign an agreement today with the president of the Piraeus Port Authority (OLP), Giorgos Anomeritis, about a joint bid for the cargo container center at Thriasio, western Attica. Greece is the first stop on Wen’s nine-day European tour, which will peak at the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) in Brussels and the European Union-China summit. After Greece, Wen will visit Belgium, then Italy and finally Turkey.

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