The Klingendael report leads to the following conclusions:
– Primarily because of Cosco’s involvement, Piraeus is currently the world’s fastest
growing container port. Cosco is clearly serious in its endeavour to turn Piraeus into a
significant hub for transhipment in the Mediterranean and a major distribution centre
for Central, East and South-East Europe, including the Black Sea region. Regarding the
distribution of imported goods beyond Greece, a key factor is Cosco’s ability to attract
the regional distribution centres of major multinational companies, such as Hewlett-
Packard, Huawei, ZTE and Samsung. While there is indeed strong interest from several
companies in making this move, and the implications for Piraeus’s gateway function
could potentially be far-reaching, this process is still at an early stage.
– Cosco’s activities in Piraeus have the potential to strengthen considerably the influence
of the Chinese state over the maritime trade corridor between China and the EU.
This becomes particularly clear against the background of Chinese investments in
rail infrastructure in South-East Europe, the presence of the Chinese Navy along the
sea route from the East China Sea to the Eastern Mediterranean, and Chinese state-
ownership of China’s shipping lines, ports and infrastructure construction companies.
This process may have long-term implications for the strategic position of the EU vis-à-
– Other implications for the EU of Cosco’s role in Piraeus include a strengthening of the
Greek economy and the potential for increased trade with China, but also the potential
for an increased inflow of counterfeit or other undeclared goods, and increased
leverage of the Chinese government over Greek government policies on specific issues
that are of high strategic significance to China.
– The fact that Cosco Pacific is listed on the Hong Kong stock exchange but also
ultimately controlled by the Chinese Communist Party indicates that the company is
relatively transparent and well governed, while it can also benefit – via its parent Cosco
Group – from preferential financial (and potentially also diplomatic) support by the
Chinese government. These features make Cosco an attractive partner for the Greek
government and for Cosco’s business partners at Piraeus. In this sense, the fact that
Cosco Group is a state-owned enterprise contributes to its market position.
– The main relevance for the Netherlands of Cosco’s operations in Piraeus relates to
the possibility of (parts of) future trade flows between Central Europe (including
parts of Germany) and China being conducted 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.