Continuing his preparations for next month’s Thessaloniki International Fair (TIF), Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras met with representatives of businesses in the northern port city over the weekend, as his political rivals dismissed his government as unable to secure much-needed investments.
Tsipras, who was accompanied in his meetings by several top ministers, is keen to present a positive narrative at his keynote speech before Greece’s political and business elite on September 9. He is expected to declare that the country’s battered economy is finally turning a corner, citing a recent return to international bond markets, another bumper year for the Greek tourism sector and an upcoming bailout review in the fall by foreign creditors ahead of next year’s scheduled exit from the program.
Although his government is not in a position to declare handouts to the public, as was traditionally done by premiers at TIF in the pre-bailout years, Tsipras will seek to give regular Greeks the message that better years are ahead. “People are not expecting to be impressed by what they will hear at TIF,” one source close to Tsipras said. “What they want to hear is a message of stability, of reassurance that everything will go smoothly so they can gradually start making plans again, even with limited resources.”
On another level, Tsipras will attempt to give the message that Greece is open for business, despite interventions by some prominent members of his cabinet that have impeded certain projects.
The government is hoping to elicit specific commitments from French companies that have expressed an interest in investing in the Thessaloniki Port Authority as part of a privatization drive that Greece is under pressure by creditors to accelerate. A scheduled visit to Athens a few days before TIF by French President Emmanuel Macron might help secure the investment, sources have indicated.
Commenting on Saturday, the spokesman for the main opposition New Democracy party, Vassilis Kikilias, said it was “tragic” to hear Tsipras speak of investments “when top ministers of the SYRIZA-ANEL government constantly throw up obstacles.”