The political rhetoric is expected to intensify over the coming days ahead of the Thessaloniki International Fair early next month, with Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras to visit the northern port city on Saturday to hold talks with representatives of business groups in preparation for his speech before the country’s political and business elite at TIF on September 9.
Tsipras’s decision to visit Thessaloniki two weeks before his speech appeared to be a reaction to the declared intention of his political rival, New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis, to visit the port city for talks with entrepreneurs on September 4.
Before traveling to Thessaloniki on Saturday, Tsipras is on Friday expected to meet with key ministers to gauge what kind of scope there is for his government to offer concessions lightening the burden on certain economic sectors that have been hard hit by austerity over the past seven years.
Any such promises that the prime minister might make will be subject to approval by representatives of Greece’s international creditors who are to conduct a third review of the country’s current bailout in the fall.
ND is expected to emphasize Tsipras’s inability to offer concrete relief and the many promises on which he has reneged since coming to power in 2015.
According to sources, the premier aims to devote a section of his speech at TIF to outlining planned interventions for Thessaloniki and northern Greece. A key highlight of the speech, Tsipras aides hope, will be plans by French companies to invest in the Thessaloniki Port Authority (OLTH) as part of a privatization drive that Greece is under pressure from foreign creditors to accelerate.
Government officials are striving to secure a firm commitment from the French side by the time of Tsipras’s speech to bolster his claims that Greece is turning a corner and open to foreign investments.
With French President Emmanuel Macron due in Athens just two days before Tsipras’s scheduled speech at TIF, Greek officials are scrambling to boost interest of French investors and encourage a large delegation of entrepreneurs to accompany Macron on his trip.