While visiting Greece, Dr. Wolfgang Gerhardt, Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom (FNF), paid a visit to the city of Thessaloniki. The capital of the Northern-Greek region of Macedonia is the second biggest city of the Hellenic Republic and a major business center.
Dr. Gerhardt was welcomed by the Lord Mayor of the City of Thessaloniki, Yannis Boutaris. The unconventional mayor heads the city since 2010 when he was elected gaining only 350 votes more than his conservative predecessor. During the last three years, the former wine producer has managed to turn the local administration around by applying liberal reforms, ending the self-serving mentality among many of his civil servants and provoked regularly public debate.
Boutaris vividly described the hardships he had to go through before being able to turn things for the better. “Greece has been run as a soviet type of state for the last decades”, the 71-year- old openly stated. “Although my hometown has been a stronghold of the conservative ‘Nea Dimokratia’ party since the beginning of time, this assessment especially applied to Thessaloniki. Unions and politics were playing a very dirty game at the expense of the citizens.”
Additionally, the Mayor assured the FNF of his support for future liberal undertakings in Thessaloniki. Since the city will serve as the “European Youth Capital 2014”, the FNF will intensify its work in Thessaloniki in the upcoming year.
Dr. Gerhardt thanked the Lord Mayor for his efforts to reform the management and administration of the second biggest Greek city and wished him good luck for the 2014 municipal elections. “With a reform-oriented, courageous mayor at the top, Thessaloniki can be a lighthouse for Greece”, Dr. Gerhardt said afterwards. “My colleagues had promised that I would meet a lot of impressive, liberal and reform-oriented people which do not fit into the negative picture that is all too often conveyed by the media. To see that there are indeed people who have understood the signs of the times, and who are willing to do what it takes to change the country, has really given me hope.”