Potential cooperation projects between China and Greece extend across a wide range of fields that were listed by Petros Doukas, the mayor of Sparta, in a panel talk on Friday, in Piraeus.
Doukas presented a long list that included shipping, aviation, banking, insurance, real estate, hotels, logistics, alternative energy, pharmaceuticals and filming.
"These are the two most ancient civilizations, there is a lot of respect for each other and a lot of things in common," he told the conference that brought together Chinese and Greek officials, business executives, scholars, academics and students.
Doukas suggested an international conference on Chinese-Greek cultural exchange be held in the historical city of Sparta, located about 200 kilometers southwest of Athens.
"There are a lot of opportunities between Greece and China," said Doukas, a former Greek deputy minister of finance.
He said shipping will be "first and foremost" for expanded cooperation. "I think there are tremendous opportunities for Chinese shipping interests to cooperate with Greece－and we need to develop more partnerships and joint ventures together," he said, adding that the Chinese investment in Piraeus port had been very successful.
"It has uplifted the whole city, not just the port," he said.
As an example, two Chinese banks are making inroads into Greece. Bank of China (Europe) Luxembourg opened a branch in Athens early this month, while the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (Europe) SA will set up a representative office in Greece.
Shanghai-based Juneyao Air will launch a direct flight from Shanghai to Athens in July next year, according to a deal signed during Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis' recent visit to China.
The move is expected to help increase the number of Chinese tourists visiting Greece. Of more than 140 million Chinese tourists who traveled abroad in 2018, only 125,000 visited Greece, according to the Greek Secretary General for Tourism Konstantinos Loulis.
Emilios Avgouleas, a professor at the University of Edinburgh who moderated the panel discussion, told China Daily that agriculture, especially organic food, could be a major area for potential cooperation, adding that China imports food and welcomes strong food safety standards.
Six Greek products, including feta cheese and olives from Kalamata, Samos wines, olive oil, and butter from Sitia, Crete, are among the 100 European Union products covered under a China-EU geographical indication (GI) deal inked in China a few days ago.
Avgouleas is also a member of the Stakeholder Group of the European Banking Authority. He said that after 10 years of financial devastation, Greece needs infrastructure investment.
"Its stock of capital investment has to be replenished. The only available capital investors are the Chinese," he said.
Avgouleas described China as a country that supports European economic integration and that has cooperated well with the changing governments and partners in Greece. He quoted Greek Deputy National Security Advisor Thanos Dokos as saying that China is "a good faith partner".
Ding Chun, director of the Center for European Studies at Shanghai's Fudan University, expects bilateral trade and investment volume to grow steadily in the years ahead.
"Tourism and agriculture products will be the highlights. Cooperation in infrastructure, energy, telecommunication logistics and finance will be strengthened," he said.
Ding believes the BRI, which Greece endorsed early last year, and the nation's membership in the 17 1 platform that promotes Chinese cooperation with Central and Eastern European countries and Greek domestic plans will become important driving forces for bilateral cooperation.
Yao Zhizhong, deputy director general of the Institute of World Economics at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said the biggest potential is for Greece to attract more Chinese investment.
"But Greece can also take advantage of the Piraeus port to export more European products to China by taking advantage of the fact that China is promoting more imports," he said.