December 8, 2021

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Worker dies, Piraeus turns against ‘Chinese Cusco way’

In 2019, the year prior to Covid, the turnover of the Piraeus Port Authority (PPA) was 149.2 million euros, profit before tax was 47.6 million euros and the net result was 35.4 million euros. Significant numbers for the terminal operator and at the same time the COSCO authority, but they are very few compared to the profits that COSCO made as a shipping company thanks to the boom in traffic. While the China-administered power purchase agreement paid the Greek authorities, in 2020, the misery of 1.3 million euros in concession fees, plus eight hundred thousand euros in dividends. “What Athens gets from the port authority is peanuts,” Plamen Tonchev, head of the Asian unit at the Institute of International Economic Relations (IIER), told HuffPost. “The value of all merchandise (especially Chinese) that is transported through Piraeus, we are talking about billions of dollars, is much higher than COSCO’s contribution to the country and economy of Greece. Unfortunately, there is no way to provide a reliable estimate of the value of these assets either because the Chinese are incredibly reticent about these. the point “.

In the face of lower tax revenues in Greek coffers, the citizens of Piraeus saw a significant increase in the number of ships arriving and leaving the three port terminals, with consequences that are easily understandable from an environmental point of view. More containers overturning also meant more trucks crossing the city, and there were episodes of heated protests and roadblocks. Not only that: According to the opposition, “subcontracting and precarious labor relationships allow employers to extort employees, fear dismissal, and impose miserable terms.”

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Not even smiling the Greek entrepreneurial fabric, initially excited about the arrival of the world’s third shipping company in his backyard, was soon forced to change his mind. Parliamentary hearings for the concerned From Piraeus, which occurred before Cosco’s rise to 67% of the port authority, presents an interesting and complementary cross-section of the so-called “Chinese way”. The investor has not moved a stone in the ship repair business for five years. “Cosco’s money did not fall on Piraeus, and if the Chinese had to change even one light bulb, they brought it from China,” said the head of the Shipbuilding Association. “Cosco’s disorderly behavior must stop.” Not only that: According to the president of the Panhellenic Ship Owners Association, “We have also seen an arbitrary and excessive 60% increase in entrance fees collected by Cosco. There is not even a trace of commercial cooperation with our members, despite the fact that we are clients of the Port Authority.” Another business in the field of ship repair “We have not seen any advantage to the national or local economy, and so far we have not achieved any results from Chinese investment.” In Piraeus, the ship repair industry is historically very important to the local economy, but the Chinese seem to want to exclude it from Future projects, according to local operators: “The Chinese can be very good at handling containers and they deserve the compliments. Because the head of the Schisto industrial complex said:

Mayors who insist on the most important European port in the Mediterranean have the same opinion: according to the mayor of Piraeus, “the 2016 concession contract was a bad deal for the local government,” while for the counterpart of Keratsini-Drapetsona, a municipality adjacent to Piraeus, “it would be It is necessary sooner or later to count and see what went to the Greek state in these five years. This agreement was a very bad concession agreement for us from the beginning.” According to the mayor of Perama, a city with a large area for ship repair and in which Cosco has so far not invested zero , “There are negative consequences for shipbuilders and repair companies, for all production sectors associated with the port, but above all for employees.” While he has been the Deputy Regional Governor of Piraeus “since 2016, the main demand of the local government has been to get a return on investment for local communities and cooperation with Greek companies. Five years later, there is no concrete evidence of all this.”

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“There are many issues regarding Cusco’s presence in Piraeus,” continues Tonchev. There are many complaints about environmental pollution and lawsuits that have ended up in court. Local operators have also complained about the high entry fees COSCO collects. Not only that: the Chinese company wanted to build a new shipyard in Perama (west of Piraeus), but local companies responded strongly, because, of course, they did not want to have a Chinese boss with Chinese labor standards. After that the idea was abandoned,” explains researcher IIER.

It seems that Chinese investment only made the Chinese happy, not the Greeks. Also because COSCO’s roots immediately after the debt crisis paved the way for other Chinese state-owned companies. How to rebuild a file policy paper By Robert Schuman Center researcher Francesca Ghiretti, in 2016, the China State Grid Corporation acquired a 24% stake in the Greek public electricity company Public Power Corp. Then Shenhua Renewables acquired 75% of the Copelouzos Group’s four wind farms. In 2018, the China Energy Investment Corporation began a cooperation with the same Copelouzos Group to develop wind farms, with the aim of expanding to other European countries. In November 2019, Cosco acquired 60% of Pearl, a railway company based in Piraeus, and shortly thereafter acquired a 15% stake in Rail Cargo Terminal-Bilk, a railway station in Budapest with an annual capacity of 230,000. After the capture of Piraeus, in short, dozens of dragon companies, mostly public, decided to go shopping in Athens and its surroundings. Under the gaze of Brussels now stands silent, from the ruthless and hard-line architect of Greek destiny at a time of debt crisis.