The Thessaloniki International Fair (TIF) is an important institution for Greece and it is high time it changed from a festival of Third World-type statism into a modern exhibition designed to highlight the most dynamic and outward-looking aspects of what the country has to offer.
Why, for example, should an international exhibition like TIF host a pavilion of the armed forces or the fire brigade? And why should the entire public administration, with all its fuss, move to the northern port city every year, crowd hotel corridors, and attempt to get a seat at the front during the prime minister’s speech just to appear on television? When a party is in opposition, party hacks dream of a job in the public sector and then celebrate accordingly when they rise to power.
In recent years, Thessaloniki has taken numerous and significant steps to increase its extroversion. It has opened up to the rest of the world and gained a new self-confidence similar to that it had decades ago. The city’s International Fair can and should become Greece’s showcase. Exporting companies, startups, research centers and new masters programs in English deserve to be featured in a celebration that will inspire the city but also focus on attracting visitors from the Balkans, Europe or elsewhere.
Every year we hear the same complaints from those who visit the international exhibition in the northern port. Everybody wants to change its character and distance it from the show of statism and party networks. But they are scared of doing it, or they just forget about it.
Obviously many steps have been made, such as last year’s exhibition, around which many other events were held to promote enterpreneurship. They all left their mark. But we shouldn’t just wait for the Americans – or next year the Germans – to transform TIF into what it deserves to become. It is the leadership’s obligation to do so. For starters, it could choose to leave all the unnecessary state officials in Athens next September.