Greek Court Blocks Expansion of Major Port Under Chinese Deal

16. March 2022.13:46
The court blocked the expansion of the passenger port of Piraeus that were part of a development agreement with a Chinese company worth 4.3 billion euros because an environmental assessment was not done.

This post is also available in: Bosnian

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis (R) and Chinese President Xi Jinping (L) visit the cargo terminal of Chinese company Cosco in the port of Piraeus, November 2019. Photo: EPA-EFE/ORESTIS PANAGIOTOU/POOL

Greece’s highest administrative court, the Council of State, ruled on Monday that previous government decisions on the expansion of Piraeus port were illegal because the authorities did not carry out an environmental assessment as required by national and European Union regulations.

The decision blocks the expansion of the passenger port of Piraeus and the building of a new passenger terminal as envisaged by an agreement granting a concession to develop the port of Piraeus to Chinese company Cosco Group Limited.

In 2008, when the conservative New Democracy was the ruling party, the Piraeus Port Authority, PPA signed the 4.3 billion euro deal granting the concession for the exploitation of the commercial port for the next 35 years to Cosco, with the goal of developing the port into a logistics centre.

In 2016, Cosco then bought a 51 per cent stake in PPA for 280 million euros with a concession agreement that is due to expire in 2052. The privatisation was signed off by the leftist SYRIZA government under the financial pressure of third economic adjustment programme under the terms of the EU bailout of the country.

Cosco gained another 16 per cent of the port by the summer of 2021. It has committed to making 11 mandatory investments in Piraeus worth 294 million euros.

The Chinese company wanted to expand the passenger port of Piraeus southwards, to build another passenger terminal and four new hotel complexes, expand the vehicle import terminal, build a five-storey parking lot and construct eight hectares of new warehouses.

But Cosco’s plans to transform Piraeus into an industrial port zone angered people living nearby, and four years ago campaigners launched a movement against the development called No Port in Piraeus, led by Sotiris Alexopoulos, who recently died.

Alexopoulos’s fellow campaigner Dimitra Vini told BIRN “our movement fought in the streets and in the courts, it has been vindicated by the CoS [Council of State]”.

“The project for the new port of Piraeus, which started illegally two years ago without being preceded by a Strategic Environmental Impact Study, is cancelled. Cosco’s plans for expansion and new car piers in Keratsini are also canceled by the same decision,” Vini said.

An investigation by Greek journalist Myrto Boutsi for Reporters United found that hundreds of thousands of tonnes of waste from dredging in the port of Piraeus have been dumped in nearby fishing grounds by port manager Cosco with permission from the Greek Environment Ministry.

“The CoS annulled the Ministries of Shipping and Environment’s decisions which, as we found in our investigation, did not reflect the real environmental impact of Cosco’s activities,” Boutsi said.

BIRN’s China in the Balkans project researched and mapped other commercial activities by Beijing, documenting the immense growth of Chinese influence in the region but also allegations of corruption, exploitation, environmental damage and political influence.

Eleni Stamatoukou

This post is also available in: Bosnian