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Here's to 50 more


Building on the past half-century partnership, China and Greece will continue to deepen their ties

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the Hellenic Republic and the People's Republic of China. Regardless of the transformation the world has undergone in the past 50 years, and the changes Greece and China have experienced, the two countries have always appreciated and respected each other and have enjoyed, especially over the past few decades, a solid, friendly relationship in various fields. The excellent relations between the two countries are testament to their mutually beneficial bilateral cooperation that can contribute to global peace, development and cooperation.

In the fields of political and institutional collaboration, the excellent level of bilateral friendship is evident in the numerous agreements and memorandums of understanding that govern relations, especially the signing of the Joint Strategic Partnership Declaration in 2006.

Moreover, as was recently stated in a video meeting between President of the Greek Parliament Constantine Tassoulas and Li Zhanshu, chairman of the National People's Congress Standing Committee, we are looking forward to further strengthening the exchanges between the NPC and the Greek Parliament, through high-level and special committees, friendship groups as well as among the parliamentarians themselves, sharing legislative and supervisory work experience, and providing legal support for cooperation between the two countries.

The Olympic Spirit has also brought the countries and peoples closer together in recent times, with Greece handing over the Olympic Flame to Beijing twice over the past 15 years. Beijing is the only city in the world to host both the summer and winter Olympic games--the first time for the 2008 Olympic Games and again this year for the 2022 Winter Olympics.

Apart from the strictly athletic aspect of the Games, Greece was very happy to share with the Chinese organizers the experience and technical expertise acquired from hosting the Athens 2004 Olympics, thus contributing to the success of both Olympic and Paralympic events in China. Further cooperation in sports between the two countries will not only bring success to the athletes, but also enhance people-to-people exchanges substantially, bringing closer together not only sports fans, but the societies in general.

In the field of education, although the COVID-19 pandemic has hindered student and research mobility, the countries' academic institutions still manage to find ways to strengthen cooperation. Even recently, despite pandemic prevention restrictions, a framework agreement introducing a new master's level degree on the comparative approach of Greek and Chinese Civilizations was signed by the universities of Patras, Athens, Thessaloniki and Crete, and the Southwest University in Chongqing. The program will allow graduate students to study in both Greece and China, thus providing them with the opportunity to gain solid in-depth knowledge of the two civilizations and will promote scientific research collaborations between universities in both countries. In the coming years, Greece looks forward to welcoming more Chinese students to its English-language university education programs. The foreign language programs offered to foreign students around the world, for undergraduate, postgraduate and doctorate studies, are expected to soon exceed 200.

As the two countries are pillars of culture, we have also enjoyed a close cultural cooperation in recent years, with notable events such as the Cultural Year of Greece in China in 2008, the China-Greece Cultural Exchanges and Cultural Industry Cooperation Year in 2017.

Even in the last couple of years, in spite of the obstacles created by the COVID-19 pandemic, the ongoing Greece-China Year of Culture and Tourism has been a great opportunity to celebrate our cultural collaboration with the Chinese side. As for tourism, Greece, as a major touristic destination, is looking forward to welcoming Chinese tourists again, once travel and air-traffic are restored.

In the fields of economy and finance, Greece is open to new Chinese productive investments, among others, in areas such as transportation, energy, tourism, infrastructure, the green and digital economy, and we are keen on effectively addressing the asymmetries and imbalances in the bilateral trade relations by enhancing exports to China.

We hope that the establishment of the first Chinese bank in Athens, a branch of Bank of China, will facilitate more Chinese companies to invest in Greece.

As Greece shifts its energy production to renewable sources and is becoming an energy hub for southeastern Europe, the energy sector is a very promising area for mutually beneficial cooperation between Greek and Chinese enterprises and institutions. Several Chinese companies are already involved in energy projects in Greece, such as China's State Grid Corporation--through its stake in the Greek Independent Power Transmission Operator--or China Gezhouba Group International Engineering Co Ltd and Zhejiang Supcon Solar Technology Co Ltd, which are involved in the engineering, procurement and construction of the Minos CSP power plant near Sitia, Crete.

In the maritime sector, the mutually beneficial partnership justifies the confidence on the success of future common endeavors. The investment by COSCO in the Port of Piraeus has been hailed as a landmark Chinese investment abroad, contributing to Piraeus becoming a maritime hub between the East and the West. Additionally, over the past 15 years, Greek shipowners have built more than 1,000 vessels in Chinese shipyards, an investment valued at over $70 billion, thus considerably contributing to the growth of the local shipbuilding industry and its suppliers.

Taking into consideration the successful partnership established over the last 50 years, we can be confident that China and Greece will continue to deepen and solidify their relations in the future, promoting the interest of our peoples and the world. In this context, I would like to wish a happy 50th anniversary of the Greece-China diplomatic relations, and a prosperous future for the countries' partnership.

The author is the Greek ambassador to China. The author contributed this article to China Watch, a think tank powered by China Daily.

The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.

Contact the editor at editor@chinawatch.cn