Thessaloniki Summit 2016: High-level dialogue on growth and development in Thessaloniki. A new institution is born.

The first Thessaloniki Summit (Thessaloniki Summit 2016) was recently held with the aim of launching a high-level dialogue on growth and development in Thessaloniki, northern Greece and the country as a whole. Organised by the Federation of Industries of Northern Greece (FING) together with Symeon Tsomokos S.A., this prospective new institution had as its impetus the aspiration of boosting the Greek economy.

Our goal was to synthesize the views put forward during the summit in order to kick-start growth and development in the country, boost the job market and create synergies with the European Union, governments, central banks and businesses.

Throughout these difficult years of crisis, private businesses have stood firm, meeting the challenge of the economic crisis as they fought for growth. In northern Greece, especially, our struggle has been titanic. The problem we are now facing, of surviving, keeping our businesses open, and thus also ensuring economic growth, is a complex one. This intricacy and the crying need for realistic proposals to kick-start the economy are what led to this new initiative, namely the first Thessaloniki Summit.

More than fifty distinguished speakers who spoke during the first Thessaloniki Summit included growth and development policymakers, outward-looking businessmen, high-ranking EC officials, Greek and foreign politicians, academics and business consultants. The topics discussed were the geopolitical upheavals, managing the flow of refugees, the openness of the Greek economy, attracting new investments, and the economy’s growth and development prospects in strategic sectors such as energy, tourism and culture.

We have singled out the proposals put forward for a European Thessaloniki by the Chief Spokesperson for the European Commission, Mr Margaritis Schinas.

From the podium of the first Thessaloniki Summit, Mr Schinas proposed:

  • the creation of a Magna Carta for a European Thessaloniki that will serve as a mid-to-long-term commitment for public and private agencies, universities, businesses, NGOs and research centres vis-à-vis joint growth priorities, and will establish the city’s identity in the wider region and the EU; and,
  • a city that will be an ‘Open Capital’ and at the same time the ‘Fun Capital of Europe’. A city that will do justice to the vision of former Greek prime ministers Papanastasiou, Venizelos and Karamanlis, who envisioned Thessaloniki as a bridge linking western Europe, the Balkans and the East.

The message from the podium was that Greece is not simply undergoing a resetting of the economy, but is in fact, with the help of the EC, going through the arduous journey of building a modern State. It is only natural for such a journey to create tensions, face objections and often be disparaged. What is certain, however, is that it is already generating — not always visible, but definitely real — results, undoing ills of the past (clientelism, unmanageable deficits at the expense of future generations) and establishing new structures that will bring in transparency and efficiency.

A point of consensus among all the speakers was that it is paramount for the programme to be duly completed by 2018, for a climate of investment and entrepreneurial certainty and predictability to be created, for there to be sincere political support of the overall endeavour, and for this reformation effort to be owned by mass society rather than by the privileged few. The great sacrifices suffered by the Greeks during the last seven years should not be in vain.