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Speech by Chinese Ambassador Zou Xiaoli at the Opening Ceremony of the First Session of "Chinese-Hellenic Cities Forum"
2016-11-12
 

Your Excellency, Mr. Kouroumblis, Minister of Shipping, Transport and Island Policy,

Your Excellency, Mr. Pitsiorlas, Deputy Minister of Economy and Development,

Your Excellency, Mr. Ilias Psinakis, Mayor of Marathon and President of the Amphictyony of Ancient Greek Cities,

Your Excellency, Mr. Song Jingwu, Vice-President of the Chinese People's Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries (CPAFFC),

Local government officials and representatives of economic, cultural, and educational institutes of both countries,

Ladies and gentlemen, dear friends,

Today is a day worth celebrating in the history of China-Greece relations. Officials from the Chinese People's Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries, 8 Chinese provinces and 14 cities, the Amphictyony of Ancient Greek Cities, over 80 Greek cities, as well as representatives of major economic and educational institutes and entrepreneurs of both countries are gathered in Athens to discuss plans to enhance friendship and deepen cooperation. It is the first time that such a large-scale event for local and people-to-people exchanges has been held in the past 44 years of our diplomatic relations. This pioneering forum will also lay a solid foundation for regular and long-term exchanges in the future and exert far-reaching impact.

In March this year, under the initiative and with the relentless efforts of Mr. Ilias Psinakis, Mayor of Marathon, the Amphictyony of Ancient Greek Cities was formally established. As the only foreign diplomat invited to address the founding conference, I promised that the Chinese Embassy in Greece will build bridges between the Amphictyony and Chinese cities and start a new process of local and people-to-people exchanges between our two countries. Following that, Mr. Psinakis visited China twice and reached agreement with Vice-President Song Jingwu of CPAFFC to hold the first session of the "Chinese-Hellenic Cities Forum". Since the beginning of this year, delegations from 15 Chinese provinces and cities have visited Greece. Local Greek delegations of Marathon, Zakynthos, Milos, Lefkada, Sparta, Heraklion, and Ancient Olympia have visited China. So far, 20 cities from each side have paired up as sister cities. All of these outcomes have created sound conditions for the successful convening of today's Forum. Here, on behalf of the Chinese Embassy in Greece, please allow me to extend highest regards and sincere thanks to the CPAFFC, the Amphictyony of Ancient Greek Cities, as well as local governments, cultural and economic institutes and entrepreneurs of the two countries for your active participation and great support!

As ancient civilizations, both China and Greece have made indelible contribution for the progress of human civilization. Greek leaders and friends often say to me that the ancient Silk Road and the wisdom of our ancient saints should be more than subjects of historical studies or exhibitions in museums. From these remarks I can deeply feel the shared aspirations of our two peoples to realize national revival. In 2014, Chinese President Xi Jinping and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang made respective visits to Greece. In July 2016, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras made a formal visit to China. In October, H.E. Mr. Liu Yunshan, member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee, visited Greece. A strategic vision has emerged and become increasingly clearer from this series of exchanges. President Xi Jinping has pointed out that China and Greece should join hands to build the Port of Piraeus into an important supporting point for the "Belt and Road" cooperation. Prime Minister Tsipras has clearly stated that Greece hopes to become the converging point of the Silk Road on land and Silk Road at sea. The development strategies of China and Greece have been aligned in the "Belt and Road" Initiative. In August this year, Cosco Shipping realized smooth take-over of the Piraeus Port. Following that we have had one good news after another: China will be the honoured country for the Thessaloniki International Fair (TIF); The two sides have  declared 2017 as the year of cultural exchanges and cultural industry cooperation; Plaque for the Chinese Cultural Center has been unveiled; The Europe Coordination Office of ASEM Cooperation Center for Science, Technology, and Innovation  under the joint initiative of China and Greece was established in Athens. State Grid of China has won the bid for the IPTO project; CMEC and PPC have signed strategic cooperation agreement. The first session of "China-Hellenic Cities Forum" is being held.

Ladies and gentlemen,

This year marks the 10th anniversary of the establishment of comprehensive strategic relationship between our two countries. Currently, China-Greece relations are pressing ahead in various areas and demonstrating broader prospects for future development. In the next stage, the two sides are to make joint efforts in the following areas:

First of all, with the Piraeus Port project of Cosco Shipping as the dragon head, efforts will be made to build Greece into the most important hub for trade and people-to-people exchanges in the Mediterranean. In the afternoon, Mr. Fu Chengqiu, CEO of Cosco Shipping Piraeus Port Company Ltd., is to give a briefing at the Forum on the development plan for the Piraeus Port. With the implementation of the plan, the capacity for receiving cruise ships and containers by the Piraeus Port and the ports in whole Greece will be greatly boosted, leading to the development of related industries like logistics, trade, tourism, shipbuilding, finance, and real estate. According to IOBE's report, investment of Cosco Shipping will create 125,000 jobs in Greece and boost its annual GDP growth by 0.8 percentage points. This means tremendous business opportunities for both countries.

Second, cooperation will be expanded in energy, transportation, telecommunications and other infrastructure-related areas to help Greece's economic integration and its inter-connectivity with neighboring countries. Currently the two sides are in talks on building a lignite-fired power plant in the north of Greece, next generation of the telecommunications network, airports, express ways and power grid upgrading. The Greek side has also extended invitation to China to participate in the building and management of railways and ports as well as exploration of offshore oil resources, to which China has attached great importance. China is ready to combine its advantage in the building and management of large-scale infrastructure projects with Greece's geographical position and its close ties with countries in the region. Through integrated cooperation on financing, building, and operation, China is willing to help Greece improve its position in regional economy while boosting its export of equipment and technology to Europe, thus realizing mutual benefit and win-win results.

Third, we will make the year of China-Greece cultural exchanges and cultural industry cooperation a great success and promote inclusiveness and mutual learning of different cultures. In October this year, China-Europe Civilization Dialogue was held in Athens. Participants to the Dialogue agreed that rich historical and cultural heritage of both countries should be given new forms and a new meaning to shed lights on us today. People of vision of both countries raised many good suggestions at the Dialogue, such as jointly shooting documentaries to reflect the long history and splendid cultures of our two countries, to translate classical works of each other, to jointly build creative industry parks, museums, and mythology-themed parks, to set up a center to promote the Marathon races, to establish a base for education of the Olympic culture, to experiment on spas based on Chinese medicine, to jointly host exhibitions on ancient science and technology, and to initiate the forum of Great Civilizations (GC9). I hope these ideas will be translated into reality and push China-Greece cultural exchanges to the front of China-Europe relations. This is the historical mission of our two countries.

Fourth, taking the opportunity of being the honoured country of the Thessaloniki International Fair next year, we should jointly explore the regional market. The TIF is the most important international exhibition in Southeast Europe and the Balkan region and has been playing an active role in boosting regional trade and opening-up. Cooperation between China and Central and Eastern European countries is pressing ahead steadily. The TransAdriatic Pipeline (TAP) has gone into operation. Privatization of the Thessaloniki Port has been put on agenda. These, together with the upgrading of power plants, express ways and other energy and infrastructure projects, will further enhance the geopolitical advantage and driving force for development of the north of Greece, where Thessaloniki is located. Business communities of both countries should make full use of the TIF next year to increase mutual understanding and explore new means of trade, investment, and financial cooperation, for instance, considering the possibility of establishing a production and logistics base in northern Greece which can be utilized to expand trade to Southeast Europe, the Balkans, and the Middle East.

Fifth, we will vigorously carry out scientific and educational cooperation to provide technological and personnel support for the development of China-Greece relations. Five priorities and four platforms have been identified in China-Greece scientific and technological cooperation. The five prioritized areas of cooperation are the joint research and promotion of the laser restoration technology on cultural heritage, the transfer of practical technologies in agriculture, ship-building and repair, and port construction, the utilization of research findings in nano technology, telecommunications, and life science, as well as the areas of marine research and geological research. The four platforms are China-Greece Laser Technology Joint Laboratory on Cultural Heritage, scientific park, marine research center, and geological research base. Educational exchanges and cooperation between China and Greece are having a great momentum. In March this year, a delegation of over 30 institutes of higher learning visited Greece, 8 of which signed exchange programmes with TEI. Many Greek universities express the wish to take measures to attract Chinese students. Some high schools of the two countries are discussing inter-school exchanges and student exchange programmes. In this regard, local governments and cultural institutes can play an important role.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The next 5 years is a crucial period for the development of both China and Greece. China is striving to realize the building of a moderately prosperous society by 2021, and Greece hopes to realize economic revival by 2021. The "Belt and Road" initiative has linked the Chinese dream and the Greek dream closely together. The development of China-Greece relations will not only benefit people of our two countries, but also has far-reaching impact beyond the bilateral scope. Our two countries have the responsibility, willingness, and ability to set a fine example of mutual respect and win-win cooperation between countries of different political systems and cultural backgrounds. The convening of the "China-Hellenic Cities Forum" is an important step in this direction.

I am fully convinced that, with the relentless efforts of central and local governments and people of various circles, the next 10 years of China-Greece comprehensive strategic partnership will yield more fruitful results to help the ancient nations of the East and the West realize great revival!

Thank you!

 

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