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Why Greece Has Given Up on Privatizing the Port of Alexandroupoli?

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The Port of Alexandroupoli stands out due to its strategical location. Currently, the port used by the United States (US), Britain, Italy and Spain for military purposes, it is known that the port is an alternative route for delivering military equipment to the eastern wing of the organization through North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

Greece launched a tender in September 2022 for the privatization of Alexandroupoli Port, which is of such critical importance. In fact, the Athens administration announced that it had received bids for a 67% stake in the port from Quintana Infrastructure and Development (US), Black Financial Group (US), Euroports (Belgium), EFA Group (Singapore) and GEK Terna (Greece).[1] Summit had predicted that the US company Black Summit would win the tender. In fact, John Charalambakis, Managing Director of Black Summit Financial Group, stated that they received support from the Washington administration to win the tender.[2] However, the privatization of the port in Greece has been opposed by many, especially the main opposition party, the Radical Left Coalition-Progressive Alliance (SYRIZA). Thus, the Vice President of European Parliament and GUE/NGL group SYRIZA Delegation President Dimitrios Papadimoulis expressed that they see the privatization of big ports as a mistake.[3]

The reason why Greece wants to privatize the port in question is economic concerns. It is also claimed that the financial bailout packages provided by the European Union (EU) to Greece have forced Athens to privatize a large number of public assets, including the management of ports. For example, Papadimoulis, who opposed the privatization of Alexandroupoli Port, criticized Brussels, saying, “The EU has clearly put its financial interests ahead of security concerns.”[4]  Therefore, Greece started to privatize its strategic ports after the economic crisis in 2008.

In 2016, the Athens administration sold 66% of Piraeus Port, the largest and most valuable port in the country, to the Chinese company China Ocean Shipping Company (COSCO),[5] and in 2021, 80.3% of Thessaloniki Port to Belterra Investments, owned by Ivan Savvidis, a Greek oligarch known to be close to Russian President Vladimir Putin.[6]

While the privatization of strategic ports was criticized in Greece, it was announced that the tender for the sale of 67% of the shares of Alexandroupoli Port was cancelled on November 7, 2022. In this context, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis stated that they cancelled the privatization of the Port of Alexandroupoli and decided that it should remain in state ownership as a valuable asset that cannot be given up.[7]

It can be argued that geopolitical developments were influential in the abandonment of the privatization of the port. The most important of these geopolitical developments is undoubtedly the Russia-Ukraine War. Because Greece aims to become a key actor in the energy crisis caused by the war and to become an energy centre. Athens is deepening its cooperation with Sofia for this purpose. Therefore, it is clear that Alexandroupoli has the potential to become an energy hub for Central Europe. Therefore, it is not difficult to understand why Greece has given up on the privatization of Alexandroupoli Port. It can be argued that Alexandroupoli Port, which Greece considers as an “indispensably valuable asset”, will play a key role in the realization of its goals in the field of energy as well as defence.

On the other hand, the most important partner that comes to mind when talking about this port is the US. Indeed, this port is extremely important for the Washington administration. Alexandroupoli is a port that Washington uses as a kind of “base” and increases its military buildup day by day. In particular, it is an important entry point for the supply of military equipment to Kiev during the Russian-Ukrainian War.

It is also strategically located for the diversification of European energy sources. This has increased the value of the port. In other words, the port is an important center for the US as it increases its military presence in Eastern Europe. Indeed, on November 2, 2022, it was claimed in the press that the US Army’s 1st Aviation Brigade would be sent to the Port of Alexandroupoli within the framework of the five-year defense cooperation agreement signed between Washington and Athens in 2021. It has been claimed that the brigade, which has its origins in the Vietnam War, consists of attack helicopters and in this context, 600 American soldiers will be deployed to the port together with attack helicopters.[8] Therefore, the actions of the US, which aims to turn Alexandroupoli Port into a naval base, draws the reaction of Russia.

In this context, the Kremlin accuses Washington of sending arms to Kiev via the port of Alexandroupoli. In a statement on the issue, Minister of Foreign Affairs Russia Sergey Lavrov referred to the “historical ties” between Russia and Greece and called on Athens to reconsider its relations with Washington.[9]

To summarize briefly, Russia’s pressure may be behind Greece’s suspension of the privatization of Alexandroupoli Port. This is because continued military presence of the US there and its military support to Kiev through this port has drawn Moscow’s reaction. As a result, Athens has become a key actor in the struggle between Washington and Moscow by taking advantage of the increasing geopolitical importance of the Alexandroupoli Port, which was not used years ago.


[1] “New Sept. 22 Biddeadline set for Alexandroupoli Port”, E Kathimerini, https://www.ekathimerini.com/economy/1193214/new-sept-22-bid-deadline-set-for-alexandroupoli-port/, (Date of Accession: 16.11.2022).

[2] “A Crucial Greek Port Will Now Fallunder American Control”, El Pais, https://english.elpais.com/international/2022-09-23/a-crucial-greek-port-will-now-fall-under-american-control.html, (Date of Accession: 16.11.2022).

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] “Greece has Beenforced to Sellits most Important Port to China”, Bussines Insider, https://www.businessinsider.com/greece-sells-piraeus-to-chinese-investors-2016-4, (Date of Accession: 17.11.2016).

[6] “Greece to Gain More Dependence on Russia Losing Touch with EU and U.S., Spurring Pariah State’s Ambition”, RoberLansing Institute, https://lansinginstitute.org/2021/02/16/russia-will-conquer-a-vital-strategic-area-on-the-greek-staging-ground/, (Date of Accession: 17.11.2022).

[7] “‘Geopolitical Developments’ Prompt Greece to Cancel Alexandroupolis Port Sale”, Euractiv, https://www.euractiv.com/section/global-europe/news/geopolitical-developments-prompt-greece-to-cancel-alexandroupolis-port-sale/, (Date of Accession: 17.11.2022).

[8] “‘ABD, Dedeağaç Limanı’na Saldırı Helikopterleri Eşliğinde 600 Asker Konuşlandıracak’ İddiası”, Sputnik, https://sputniknews.com.tr/20221102/abd-dedeagac-limanina-saldiri-helikopterleri-esliginde-600-asker-konuslandiracak-iddiasi-1062990715.html, (Date of Accession: 17.11.2022).

[9] Ibid.

Sibel MAZREK
Sibel MAZREK
Lisans eğitimini Gazi Üniversitesi İletişim Fakültesi'nde tamamlayan Sibel Mazrek, yüksek lisans eğitimine Ankara Hacı Bayram Veli Üniversitesi Lisansüstü Eğitim Enstitüsü'nde Gazetecilik Ana Bilim Dalı'nda devam etmektedir. Çeşitli medya kuruluşlarında muhabirlik, spikerlik sunuculuk görevlerini üstlenen Mazrek, ANKASAM'da Medya Koordinatörü olarak çalışmalarına devam etmektedir.