In Piraeus, anger roars for the visit of Wang Yi

A few meters from the premises of the Chinese company Cosco, which owns 67% of the Piraeus Port Authority, angry dockers observe a minute of silence in tribute to Dimitris, 45, who was crushed by the overhead crane of a crane, Monday, October 25. Takis Grigoriou, warehouse worker with graying hair, holds a sign: “No other deaths for the gains of Cosco”. “On the terminals bought by the Chinese, nothing works, the machines are not repaired on time. Sometimes we do 8 or even 12 hours of work without a break ”, says the fifty-something. At the same time on Wednesday, in central Athens, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, on a visit before the G20 to be held in Rome at the weekend, was welcomed with open arms by Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis .

Already in June 2020, a young 35-year-old docker lost his life on the same container dock. “We ask the government and our employer to impose more safety measures, that a commission be set up to monitor working conditions on the machines and avoid accidents, than breaks after six to seven hours. of work are scrupulously respected ”, lists Markos Bekris, president of the union of workers on container terminals. “After ten years of Chinese presence in Piraeus, the life of port workers is getting worse. If measures are not taken, we will have more deaths ”, continues the trade unionist, bitter.

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“A balancing act between China and the United States”

A few days ago, the Greek Parliament agreed to the purchase of an additional 16% of the Piraeus Port Authority (which is in addition to the 51% it has already held since 2016) for the sum of 368 , 5 million euros. In order to obtain this remaining share, Cosco Shipping had committed to invest in the port’s activities a little more than 293 million euros by 2021. In reality, only 58% of these 293 million have been invested. Cosco is committed to carrying out the remainder of the planned improvements in the first five years. But the owners of the Perama shipyards, the elected officials of the Piraeus basin and the inhabitants complain about the Asian company’s lack of consideration for the environment, and the lack of investment and benefits for the local community. Cosco replies that it has made Piraeus the first port in the Mediterranean and created more than 2,500 direct jobs.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and his Greek counterpart Nikos Dendias in Athens on October 27, 2021.
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the “Piraeus has become an emblematic project of our ‘new silk roads'”, the strategy that allows Beijing to sell its products to Europe and increase its soft power, “A model of mutually beneficial cooperation”, welcomed Wang Yi in front of his Greek counterpart. The tour of the Chinese minister, who also intends to visit Serbia, Albania and Italy, comes at a time of tensions with the United States, hence the need to remain well established in this strategic area of ​​the southern Mediterranean. .

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In Piraeus, anger roars for the visit of Wang Yi