Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis yesterday pledged to make northern Greece, and Thessaloniki in particular, significant players in developments in Southeastern Europe as he declared open the 71st Thessaloniki International Fair. Karamanlis will make his keynote economic policy speech this evening, setting out the government’s goals for the next year, but yesterday the premier visited several public works in the port city in an effort to convince residents that the ruling conservatives are delivering on their promises. «Thessaloniki has moved from the words of the past to the works of the future,» Karamanlis said during his inauguration speech yesterday. He underlined the importance of three projects in the city – the construction of a 1-billion-euro metro system; the expansion of Macedonia Airport so transatlantic flights can land there; and the building of an underwater tunnel linking Thessaloniki’s eastern and western suburbs, which allows cars to bypass the city center. Karamanlis also emphasized the importance of the agreement Greece reached with Bulgaria and Russia earlier this week to construct the Burgas-Alexandroupolis pipeline. «It is a historic decision with significant benefits for everybody,» he said. «We are working intensively so that Thessaloniki, Macedonia and Thrace have the leading role that they deserve in the new geopolitical scene of Southeastern Europe,» Karamanlis added. Supporters of PAOK soccer club clashed with riot police outside the exhibition center as the prime minister delivered his speech. More protests are expected today.