Given that the main theme of the Thessaloniki International Trade Fair has been significantly downgraded over time, the annual show’s importance has in the last few years centered around the prime minister’s keynote speech at the event’s opening, his address to the country’s productive forces, events organized by unions and other organizations (when they wish to do so), and the premier’s press conference the following day. The trade show is completed as a political event by speeches delivered by opposition leaders.
Clearly Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and his team are particularly puzzled with regard what he will say at the Thessaloniki fair next month. First of all, this has to do with the fact that people still remember the unveiling of SYRIZA’s infamous economic program, which largely contributed to the party’s efforts to rise to power (through the elections, truth be told), at the fair. Secondly, since then, the government has lost a large portion of its credibility and, thirdly, the prime minister has very little ammunition in his arsenal in terms of making announcements and promises.
Tsipras’s signing of the so-called third bailout, all which preceded that agreement and, even more so, all that followed, have contributed decisively to the common belief that the ability of the Greek government to follow its own policies in crisis-stricken Greece is limited, if not nonexistent. The figures are out there, the targets cannot change and, generally speaking, there is only one reality. It is up to each government to select its own path in order to reach these targets and, in this case, the current administration has made its own decisions. These include over-taxation and putting the burden on the middle class, avoiding any kind of reform in the public sector while safeguarding its staff, the development of its own version of a state-centralized regime borrowing elements from Hugo Chavez and Recep Tayyip Erdogan, as well as Marxist practices, double-talk regarding investment and a sense of an overall downward leveling.
From this point of view, therefore, the prime minister does not have a wide range of declarations and promises to choose from, no matter how hard he may try to sprinkle his speeches with expectations of better days in an attempt to excite the crowds from the Thessaloniki fair’s podium. His concern is reflected in his frequent gatherings with close aides and unofficial cabinet meetings.
Nevertheless, the same concern is evident in the camps of the opposition, at least those which reject populism and are pro-Europe. They are equally unable to make promises they know only too well cannot be fulfilled and, at best, what their leaders can only achieve is highlighting the mistakes and inefficiencies of the current government. Politically speaking, therefore, the upcoming fair will be one of limited scope.