Moses Elisaf, Greece's first Jewish and liberal mayor
Moses Elisaf is Professor of Pathology at the University of Ioannina, a major city in north West Greece and president of the city's Jewish community. Doctor, academic and non-partisan politician, in May 2019 he was elected Mayor of Ioannina. Without the support of any of the imposing political parties, Elisaf overturned predictions and won the support of his city's fellow voters.
He convinced the voters with a liberal agenda, planning to improve the governance of the City, to make an impact in everyday affairs such as cleanliness, and implement an extrovert strategy that will bring in more visitors, increase Ioannina’s GDP, and turn a historic city of the periphery into the node of Western Balkans.
Later the same year, the Central Union of Municipalities of Greece elected him member of the Committee of the Regions, in which Greece holds 12 permanent and 12 alternate seats. Professor Elisaf joined the liberal family, being the first Greek member of the Renew Europe group. The Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom wanted to welcome him by giving him the floor to introduce himself to the Greek and European liberals, and talk about his vision for Ioannina.
Together with Mr Apostolos Siokas, City Councilor of Moschato-Tavros and coordinator of the Network of Liberal Councilors in Greece, we travelled to Ioannina for an interview, just one before the Greek Government escalated the measures of protection against the COVID-19.
In our discussion with Prof. Elisaf (which took place in the yard of the City Hall for hygienic reasons) we asked him about his dual role, as a physician and a politician amid a pandemic. He told us that this coincidence helps him move faster and more efficiently, however it is up to the citizens’ responsible stance that the measures from the top bear results.
About the conditions of the local administration in Greece he noted that there is a lot of work yet to do, should the system be practically improved. Oftentimes, bureaucracy is very problematic while there are electronic solutions still not exploited. Having said that, the Mayor asked for a new framework for flexibility and subsidiarity that will eventually let the Cities and the Regions play the role the citizens ask for. After all, he highlighted that during the economic crisis it was the local administration that provided most of the help to the societal base.
With regard to his Renew Europe membership, he said that it was a conscious decision. He believes in open society, human and civil rights, the social market economy and he is a true democrat. Thus, he wanted to be a member of the liberal family of Europe and together to work on a new agenda for the regional policies in the EU.
The son of Holocaust survivors, Prof. Elisaf said that Ioannina is the case of a multicultural city where communities of diverse ethnic and religious background coexisted peacefully for centuries. He wants to make it again a symbol of openness and hospitality, and with a strategic prospect to maximize the value of transport networks (highways and railways), visit attractions and universities to elevate Ioannina to the economic center of gravity of the western Balkans.