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Olympics, EXPO wooed to boost Thessaloniki
The Municipality of Thessaloniki wishes to follow the pattern set by Barcelona and seek, through a ready strategic development plan, to bring to the city the Mediterranean Games of 2012, the international exhibition EXPO in 2017 and maybe even the Olympics of 2036.
This ambitious plan was unexpectedly tabled yesterday by Thessaloniki Mayor Vassilis Papageorgopoulos, a former athlete, during a two-day international conference by the city’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
He continued by asking — in the presence of Deputy Finance Minister Christos Folias — for 5 percent of the taxes Thessaloniki residents pay the state in order to fund this strategic plan. He also expressed his confidence that within two or three months Thessaloniki will have its metropolitan administration.
The plan’s five pillars are: infrastructure projects, with roads to link the city with nearby large cities within three to five hours; improvement in quality of life; boosting the production base, including the creation of a World Trade Center in the city; improving the metropolitan administration and international promotion through major events.
Papageorgopoulos argued local authorities and chambers should be involved in the organization of the Thessaloniki International Fair as is the case in Barcelona. “I hope we will soon realize our mistake, both we and the government,” he said.
The conference heard from representatives of six European cities (Valencia, Dublin, Bologna, Birmingham, Frankfurt, Leipzig) present how they have breathed new life into their cities, providing a model for Thessaloniki.
Thessaloniki Prefect Panayiotis Psomiadis said the city is a “forgotten provincial city” and like an “ancient tragedy.” “From Greece’s second city we have become the unemployment capital; from the exporting manufacturing metropolis, we have ended up as the importing center of such products and from the harbor of investment in the 1960s we are now watching the departure of enterprises and the rapid deindustrialization,” he stated.
Folias said the opportunities Thessaloniki has missed in the past must become a lesson. He also tabled a set of proposals for local programs to support small and medium-sized enterprises and to provide incentives for attracting investments to the city. Finally he called for council-owned buildings to be used to boost entrepreneurship.