Mayors and the "Restart"
The long-lasting lockdown was a challenging period for Greece. However, the liberal youth was looking for the right opportunity to do a “Restart”, in order to connect again with the society. Our Foundation, in cooperation with Young Liberals Greece, made this happen through a Liberal Road-trip in Northern Greece.
The hope of returning back to normality reminds us the need to be active and, thus, our team tried to visit as many destinations as possible. The local administration, the businesses, and the civil society were an integral part of our meetings, elaborating on their needs and their ambitions. Moreover, it was a great opportunity to inform them for our upcoming actions and generally the liberal values and ideas.
It is acknowledged, that the local administration plays a significant role in the organizing of local communities. For that reason, in the beginning of every destination, we firstly visited the town hall, where we had the opportunity to meet and interact with the majors and members of the municipal council and also learn the particularities of every city.
Starting at 24th of May from the historical city of Ioannina, we visited the mayor Moses Elisaf. Dr Elisaf presented to us the specific features of the municipality, the needs that evolved during the pandemic and the current goals that they trying to achieve. In the afternoon, the major guide us to the historic Synagogue of the city and later he made an opening remark in our event about Diversity and the Fight against Discriminations in Pyrros Square.
In the city of Kozani, the mayor Lazaros Maloutas greeted us in his office as soon as we arrived in the city. We discussed explicitly about the major problem of the Municipality regarding the "de-lignification" of energy and the gradual closure of the PPC unit in Ptolemaida. The ramifications for the local economy will be adverse and harsh, but as he explained, the focus now is to find alternative policies for a more sustainable future of the city. At the same time, we met the President of Athletes, Culture and Youth in Kozani, Mr Zisi Mara, with whom we discussed the youth initiatives in the region and elaborate on finding perspectives for cooperation in future projects with Young Liberals Greece.
Our next stop Kilkis is a special city. We met with the mayor Dimitri Kyriakidi in his office and we exchange ideas of how Kilkis could become a hub in the region. Based on the fact that some emerging industrial units operate within the boundaries of the Municipality, we agreed that incentives are needed so that the new generation will have some prerequisites to stay in the city, work there and assist in economic and social development. Later, we spoke with the Deputy Mayor of Culture and Tourism, Mr. Themistoklis Kosmidis, about the traffic and touristic incentives of the city.
Soufli was the next destination. Panagiotis Kalakikos, the mayor and his colleagues welcomed us early in the morning and they informed us for the city’s characteristics. Through our talks we identified the specific difficulties of the municipality that has to do with periodical floods, and the need to provide a fertile ground for the new generation, in order to keep them in small cities.
In Didymoteixo, a city with a long history, we got in touch with the mayor Mr Romylo Chatzigiannoglou and other members of the city council. Thus, we exchange ideas of how could the city develop the conditions to become a pole of cultural, historical and economic attraction, due to its closeness to Greek-Turkish borders. For that reason, the entrepreneurship and innovation were some of the topic that we focused on our discussion, being the solution to provide opportunities to young people from the region and increase the local GDP.
Next stop of our liberal tour was Thessaloniki. The Deputy Mayor of Finance Mr. Michalis Koupkas described the development plan, which focuses on the attraction of investments and the development of a innovation culture, that will affect also other productive sectors. Green development was also part of the topic for creating an open and inclusive city. Generally, the context of the discussion provided important features of how Thessaloniki could be a hub in the Balkan region.
The last stop of the liberal roadtrip was Kalamaria. The mayor Mr. Ioannis Dardamanelis welcomed us with his colleagues. Thus, in a very hospitable and friendly environment, the major informed us for his initiatives during the pandemic and the significant role of local administration in periods of crisis. At the same time, we discussed the specific characteristics of the city, such as the coastal front and the public spaces that are expected to evolve soon in the process of regeneration. We concluded, that our cities need more greenery, improved accessibility for all and opportunities for small and medium businesses to enhance their products.
Arguably, local administration in Greece has to overcome many barriers and limitations. All Mayors converged on the view that the central state has not essentially favored the principle of subsidiarity, on the contrary sometimes it transfers responsibilities to the Municipalities without providing them with the appropriate tools.