Europe in the World

Reports and papers

Chinese investment in the port of Piraeus

20 Feb 2014 - 12:53

This report provides a preliminary insight into how Cosco's activities in Piraeus are relevant for EU–China relations and Dutch economic interests. Cosco Group is a Chinese state-owned shipping company.

Primarily because of Cosco’s involvement, Piraeus is currently the world’s fastest growing container port. Cosco’s activities in Greece have the potential to strengthen considerably the Chinese state’s influence over the maritime trade corridor between China and the EU. This process may have long-term implications for the strategic position of the EU vis-à-vis China.

Clingendael's senior research fellow Frans-Paul van der Putten shows that the Chinese state is aiming to create new trade routes between China and Central Europe by way of investments in ports and railways in Southeast Europe. Should this attempt succeed then this would limit the potential for ports in Western Europe to facilitate trade flows between Central Europe and Asia.

Herein lies the main relevance for the Netherlands of Cosco’s operations in Piraeus: the possibility of future trade flows between Central Europe and China being conducted partly via Piraeus, rather than Rotterdam or other Dutch ports. The current pioneering role of Hewlett-Packard and other major companies to establish new distribution links between Central Europe and Piraeus is a highly significant development. It is as yet too early to draw conclusions regarding the longer-term impact of this development for trade flows.