The Thessaloniki Book Fair opens its doors today at Helexpo but crowds of publishers, booksellers, agents and writers are already in town. Deputy Culture Minister Petros Tatoulis is to cut the ribbon at 8 p.m., while Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis is due to visit the fair this evening. The TBF, which runs till May 29, is a great step forward for Greek books that also thrusts the city of Thessaloniki into the spotlight. «Thessaloniki has once again confirmed its role as the metropolis of the Balkans,» Haralambos Aidonopoulos, Thessaloniki’s deputy mayor for culture, told the press at Helexpo yesterday. Aidonopoulos welcomed the venture and pledged the city’s support. «In the four days of the exhibition, we’re going to display the contemporary face of Greek books,» said Catherine Velissaris, director of the National Book Center of Greece (EKEBI). «This is a fine moment. We’ve achieved a lot – and without the budget of football, the Olympic Games or Eurovision.» Velissaris noted the contribution of Greek publishers to the success of the fair by inviting many writers. «All the links in the book chain are here,» she said: «the links that should communicate with each other, inform and be informed, exchange ideas and take initiatives. That’s why more than 100 booksellers, 100 librarians and 50 writers from Greece and Cyprus are participating in the fair. «This is just the beginning,» said Velissaris, «it takes five years to organize an international fair.» TBF has also attracted many participants from abroad – publishers, literary agents, and writers. In love with difference «In Love with Difference,» a series of round-table discussions being held during the fair, will bring together writers from different, sometimes rival, countries and cultures, among them Milorad Pavic (Serbia), Nedim Gurcel and Zulfi Livaneli (Turkey), Etgar Keret (Israel), Samir El-Youssef (Palestine), Fawzia Zouari (Tunisia), and Predrag Matvejevitch (Croatia).