Greece welcomes Chinese premier, expects more investment
ATHENS - As a Greek citizen and a businessman who has close ties with China, Geroge Kontos is very much looking forward to Chinese Premier Li Keqiang's visit to his country next week.
"First of all, I would like to welcome him as an ordinary person from Greece. Greece is a wonderful country, and also a gateway to Europe," Kontos said in a recent interview with Xinhua.
Li's scheduled visit on June 19-21 is widely expected to further the practical cooperation between China and Greece in such fields as economy and trade, shipping, oil and gas, tourism and maritime affairs.
Greece presents enormous opportunities for foreign investors, said Kontos, who has been collaborating with Chinese for more than a decade especially in the real estate sector.
Since the Greek government decided to grant residency permits to foreign property buyers, more and more Chinese have come to Kontos' firm to explore opportunities and invest in real estate properties in Greece.
Impressed by the potential of the Chinese market, Kontos strongly believes Greece has a lot of comparative advantages to offer to Chinese -- natural beauty, ancient history, a key geographical location, warmth and hospitality, and is optimistic about the future of the Greek real estate market.
He knows from his clients and his Chinese friends that whoever visits Greece feels home, just like how he felt when he was in China, which he visits several times every year since 2009, Kontos said.
"I feel home (in China). Very easy, very safe. I have travelled to dozens of countries. China is a place I really feel safe," he said.
Each time he visited China he was surprised by the rapid changes taking place there. He was always impressed by the strong team spirit in China, which he feels is lacking in Greece.
Kontos believes in team work, an idea shared by his Italian aide Alan Ceccopieri who speaks Chinese fluently.
Ceccopieri's first contact with Chinese started when he was a child growing up in Italy with two Chinese girls whose parents were running a Chinese restaurant. That also gave him opportunities to taste delicious Chinese food.
However, his dream to visit China came true only in 2013 -- almost 17 years after he started learning Chinese in Italy to better communicate with his Chinese friends.
He laughed when he recalled people's comments on him inside Chinese metro, when they did not expect him to speak Chinese. With 90 kg in weight and 185 cm in height, Ceccopieri always drew attention when he traveled by metro in China.
"Usually they would comment on my size, my height or they would comment on whether I am a tourist or living there. Some comments were odd, but it was funny, because that let me know people are the same everywhere," he told Xinhua.
According to Ceccopieri's observation, Chinese people are similar to Italians and Greeks in some aspects -- they respect each other and take good care of their families. He loves Chinese for their high moral standards and their hospitality.
In his eyes, the Chinese people are relaxed and happy and enjoy life irrespective of their economic situation.
But not everything was rosy during his stay in China. The extent of air pollution was what struck him most. Ceccopieri found Beijing and Shanghai were amazing cities, but their air quality was of grave concern, though it did not bother him so much during his last visit in 2013.
As a foreigner living in Greece and seeing things objectively, he believed there is great potential for the future cooperation between China and Greece and suggested Chinese people look beyond Greece's current economic difficulties.