ATHENS, June 28 — COSCO group chairman Captain Wei Jiafu was decorated with the Grand Cross of the Order of the Phoenix medal, one of the top medals awarded by the Greek state, on Thursday for his contribution to the strengthening of relations between China and Greece.
The medal was presented to Captain Wei by Greek Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Evangelos Venizelos during a special ceremony held at the Foreign Ministry in Athens.
It was awarded to Captain Wei in absentia by Greek President Karolos Papoulias.
The Grand Cross of the Order of the Phoenix medal is bestowed to Greek nationals for excellence in arts, science, public administration, shipping, commerce and industry and to foreigners who have contributed in raising Greece's international standing.
Presenting the medal, Venizelos praised Captain Wei for his "vision, resolve and leadership" and his collaborators for their "tireless efforts" that have made possible COSCO's investment at Piraeus port.
"This investment is the cornerstone of the strategic cooperation between two ancient maritime nations, China and Greece," Venizelos said, underlining the significance of COSCO's presence at Greece's largest port since 2009 with the operation of Pier II by COSCO's subsidiary Piraeus Container Terminal (PCT).
COSCO's investment paved the way for more investments to Greece from China and other countries in a critical period for the debt-laden country, since it has been regarded as a vote of confidence to the Greek economy and people, he explained.
"My dear friend Captain Wei you have Greece's profound gratitude. We look forward to continue this win-win cooperation and investments," Venizelos said in his speech.
Captain Wei, in turn, expressed his gratitude for the medal and his confidence for the further enhanced bilateral collaboration to the benefit of the two countries and peoples.
"It is a true and great honor for me and Chinese citizens. It is not only the recognition of my personal efforts, but also recognition to the contribution made by COSCO Group and the People's Republic of China's citizens and government. This decoration will encourage COSCO Group to further promote investments in Greece," he said.
He added that COSCO was already discussing with Greek officials the prospect of further investments in Greece.
On the economic crisis in Greece, Captain Wei expressed his confidence that Greece will overcome the current difficulties and enjoy prosperity again soon.
"Greece will be prosperous and overcome the current European debt crisis. It will be the first country to recover in this region. I believe in Greece," he stressed.
Speaking to Xinhua after the ceremony, Venizelos said the "symbolic ceremony is a real political message to China peoples, because Captain Wei is the most genuine worldwide representative of China economy. This is the expression of our recognition for the presence of COSCO here in Greece, at the port of Piraeus."
"Through the great speech of Captain Wei we heard a vote of confidence for the Greek real economy. After six years of recession, after three years of financial and economic crisis, we need this kind of practical and tangible support for the future," Venizelos added.
On Wednesday, Captain Wei attended the inauguration of PCT's Pier III facilities at Piraeus port together with Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras. It will increase the annual handling capacity of PCT by 700,000 TEUs.
The new installations which will be fully operational as of July 1, marks an impressive upgrading of the company's facilities at the port which is expected to further strengthen productivity.(PNA/Xinhua)