The Thessaloniki Summit 2017, organised by the Confederation of Industry for Northern Greece around the theme “Strong and Competitive industrial Base as a prerequisite for a new production model” has again tried - last year the Summit made its first hesitant steps to that direction - to put the region in a new, upbeat way on the map. The subtitle – “Step in the right direction” is even more eloquent.
Northern Greece was for quite a long time the main area of industrial development in the country; manufacturing was the major source of quality employment and of regional growth for decades. Then came Greece’s accession to the (then) EEC, and afterwards the effective opening of its Northern borders, which made for increasing de-industrialization and an exodus of production capacities to Balkan neighboring countries. When the savaging of financial endurance and increasing production were added costs due to the debt crisis Greece has suffered ever after 2010, the region seemed at a crossroads of gloom and (almost) surrender.
Starting last year, as the overall Greek economy began getting out of the doldrums, Northern Greece got to the task of trying to claim back its earlier pre-eminence in the field of manufacturing. The Thessaloniki Summit tried to channel this kind of energy to something tangible; the Greek Government seemed ready to concur, with Prime Minister Tsipras proclaiming “Thessaloniki, the industrial capital of the country” and vowing to give substance to the National Industry Council demanded by the local Confederation of Industry. More tangibly, the Secretary General for Industry Stamatis Zafeiris explained how – using World Bank know-how – the administration would try to cut red-tape through the use of computerised licencing systems and some sort of institutionalized cooperation with industry. So… step in the right direction?