On November 11, the 1st Chinese-Hellenic Cities Forum was convened at the famous Zappeion Hall in Athens. Chinese Ambassador Zou Xiaoli, Minister of Shipping, Transport and Island Policy Panagiotis Kouroumblis, Deputy Minister of Economy and Development Stergios Pitsiorlas, Governor of the region of Central Macedonia Apostolos Tzitzikostas, Mayor of Marathon and President of the Amphictyony of Ancient Greek Cities Ilias Psinakis, and Vice-President of the Chinese People's Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries (CPAFFC) Song Jingwu attended it and gave remarks. More than 400 local officials and representatives of business, culture, education and other sectors were present.
The Chinese-Hellenic Cities Forum was organized by the CPAFFC and the Amphictyony of Ancient Greek Cities, under the auspices of the Greek Ministry of Interior and the Chinese Embassy in Greece, with the theme being China-Greece cooperation at local level in the framework of the Belt and Road Initiative. The Forum will afterwards be convened once a year alternately in Chinese and Greek cities, and the second session will be in China in 2017.
President Psinakis said in his welcome speech that the Belt and Road Initiative provides an important opportunity for Greece and China, two ancient civilizations to forge a closer relationship and deepen their cooperation. To revive the glory of silk road needs wide participation of the governments in both central and local level as well as enterprises and all the other sectors of our two countries. This forum has provided an important platform for provinces and municipalities of the two sides to strengthen exchanges and cooperation in business, culture and other fields. It will push the Greek-Chinese relations to further development, and help Greece moving towards the end of economic hardship.
Vice President Song Jingwu emphasized the importance of the 1st Chinese-Hellenic Cities Forum by quoting Chinese ancient philosopher Mencius as "What's precious for people's acquaintance is knowing, and what's precious for people's knowing is understanding." He said that as the national people's organizations engaged in people-to-people diplomacy of China, the CPAFFC has played an active role as a bridge of friendship between cities of China and foreign countries. He hoped that cities of China and Greece could establish direct ties through this Forum and open new channels of exchanges and cooperation at local government level in the fields of culture, business, personnel and others, in order to build a bridge linking the hearts of the two peoples and hence form a solid social basis for all-round cooperation between our two countries.
Ambassador Zou Xiaoli said that today is a day worth celebrating in the history of China-Greece relations. Officials from the Chinese People's Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries, 4 Chinese provinces and 14 cities, the Amphictyony of Ancient Greek Cities, over 80 Greek cities, as well as representatives of major economic and educational institutes and entrepreneurs of both countries are gathered in Athens to discuss plans to enhance friendship and deepen cooperation. It is the first time that such a large-scale event for local and people-to-people exchanges has been held in the past 44 years of our diplomatic relations. This pioneering forum will also lay a solid foundation for regular and long-term exchanges in the future and exert far-reaching impact.
Ambassador Zou stressed that this year marks the 10th anniversary of the establishment of comprehensive strategic partnership between our two countries. Currently, China-Greece relations are pressing ahead in various areas and demonstrating broader prospects for future development. In the next stage, the two sides are to make joint efforts in the following areas: First of all, with the Piraeus Port project of Cosco Shipping as the dragon head, efforts will be made to build Greece into the most important hub for trade and people-to-people exchanges in the Mediterranean. Second, cooperation will be expanded in energy, transportation, telecommunications and other infrastructure-related areas to help Greece's economic integration and its inter-connectivity with neighboring countries. Third, we will make the year of China-Greece cultural exchanges and cultural industry cooperation a great success and promote inclusiveness and mutual learning of different cultures. Fourth, taking the opportunity of being the honoured country of the Thessaloniki International Fair next year, we should jointly explore the regional market. Fifth, we will vigorously carry out scientific and educational cooperation to provide technological and personnel support for the development of China-Greece relations. Five priorities and four platforms have been identified in China-Greece scientific and technological cooperation.
Ambassador Zou pointed out that as ancient civilizations, both China and Greece have made indelible contribution for the progress of human civilization, and today we shared aspirations of national revival. The next 5 years is a crucial period for the development of both China and Greece. China is striving to realize the building of a moderately prosperous society by 2021, and Greece hopes to realize economic revival by 2021. The "Belt and Road" initiative has linked the Chinese dream and the Greek dream closely together. The development of China-Greece relations will not only benefit people of our two countries, but also has far-reaching impact beyond the bilateral scope. Our two countries have the responsibility, willingness, and ability to set a fine example of mutual respect and win-win cooperation between countries of different political systems and cultural backgrounds. The convening of the "China-Hellenic Cities Forum" is an important step in this direction.
Minister Kouroumblis said that as two ancient civilizations, China and Greece have made important contribution to the progress of human civilization, which formed profound foundation for cooperation between our two countries. He pointed out that Greece is willing to be a bridge of the Belt and Road to Europe. He hoped that this forum, building a platform for local-level exchanges, will promote exchanges and mutual understanding between our two peoples and push forward our bilateral cooperation to a higher level.
Deputy Minister Pitsiorlas said that the success of COSCO Piraeus Port Project is a new milestone in Greece-China ties. As a key point in the construction of the Belt and Road, a bridge linking China and Europe and even the world, Greece is willing to give full play to its advantages and become a "laboratory" of cooperation between countries of different political systems and culture, with the aim of helping the Europe and China to achieve complementary advantages and win-win cooperation. With COSCO Piraeus Port Project as the first step of Greece-China cooperation of mutual benefit and win-win result, he believed that the exchanges and cooperation between the two countries would bear fruits in more and more fields.
A series of ceremonies of signing and awarding were held at the Forum opening ceremony. The CPAFFC and the Amphityony of Greek Ancient Cities signed an MOU, China's Xining Municipality and the Municipality of Rafina-Pikermi Signed a Twin City Agreement. The CPAFFC conferred "China-Greece Friendly Contributions Award" on Mr.Ilias Psinakis, Mayor of Marathon, Mr. Yiannis Boutaris, Mayor of Thessaloniki, and Mr.Lefteris Kontos, former vice-president of Greece-China Association. China's Nanjing Municipality presented the honorary title of "International Friendly Envoy" to Mr. Ilias Psinakis, Mayor of Marathon. Mayor Psinakis presented the "Marathon Ambassador" medals respectively to Vice Chairman of the Standing Committee of Henan Provincial People's Congress Liu Mancang, Vice Chairman of CPPCC Zhejiang Provincial Committee Sun Wenyou, Mayor of the Xining Municipal People's Government Zhang Xiaorong, and member of Standing Committee of CPPCC Shandong Provincial Committee Hu Zhirong.
During the one-day forum, local officials, representatives of trade associations and academia widely communicated with each other. It was widely agreed by the participants that China and Greece, although far away from each other, have made common contribution to the human civilization, and share solid foundation for bilateral cooperation as the Belt and Road Initiative has tied closely the development strategies of our two countries. Against this backdrop, the Chinese-Hellenic Cities Forum is considered to be an important platform to activate local governments, enterprises and all circles of the society of both sides to participate in our bilateral cooperation. Governor of the region of Central Macedonia Mr. Tzitzikostas, Chairman of the Hellenic Federation of Enterprises Mr. Fessas, President of the Development Company of U.H.C. (Union of Hellenic Chambers) Mr. Moraitis, General Secretary of the Greek Tourism Confederation Mr. Vernikos, Rector of National and Kapodistrian University of Athens Mr. Dimopoulos, President of Thessaloniki Exhibition Mr. Tzikas and Executive Director of Posidonia International Shipping Exhibition Mr. Vokos consecutively took the podium and briefed the participants the cooperation potentials between China and Greece in their respective fields. Chinese delegations of Henan, Nanjing, Zhejiang, Xining, Beijing, Shenyang, Lianyungang gave the overview of their respective provinces and municipalities, introducing their cooperation blueprints and suggestions. Chinese enterprises Cosco Shipping, Huawei, ZTE briefed the audience their operation in Greece and future plans. An image publicity video of Greece was broadcast at the Forum site.
The closing ceremony of the Forum was held in the evening at the famous Karaiskaki Stadium in Piraeus. Greek Deputy Foreign Minister Terens Quick, Mayor of Piraeus Ioannis Moralis, Mayor of Marathon and President of the Amphictyony of Ancient Greek Cities Ilias Psinakis made remarks at the ceremony. Mr. Quick said that the Chinese-Hellenic Cities Forum created new methods of communication between our two countries, direct contact between the two peoples get them closer, and this is the natural outcome of the Greece-China relations which has developed in profound and all-around manner in recent years. Mr. Moralis said that COSCO Piraeus Port Project is China's first important investment in Greece, which benefits not only China, but also the Piraeus Port, its surrounding cities and the Greek people at large. He expressed his confidence on the effect of the Forum on promoting the bilateral cooperation in business, culture and other fields. Mr. Psinakis said that the Forum achieved full success in providing an important platform for Greece-China exchanges and cooperation at local government level. He thanked again the Chinese Embassy in Greece and the CPAFFC for their major contribution in this regard.
The closing ceremony was followed by a reception, attended by more than 400 guests, amid which a fireworks show was given, the Chinese song "the Moon Represents My Heart" and the Greek song "Children of Piraeus" were performed by renowned Greek singers, pushing the atmosphere to its peak at the end.