Speech at the Development Conference “Central Macedonia, a District for Entrepreneurship – Immediate Actions and Strategic Planning” of the Technical Chamber of Greece/ Section of Central Macedonia
1. Towards a new, sustainable development model
We are standing before a critical turning point. Hurt by the financial crisis that utterly destroyed its productive and social fabric, Greece is struggling – through a new development model – to find a way out from the austerity measures imposed to it in the most unfair, violent and unjust way.
Today as never before, Greece is seeking for a new development model freed from the ills of the past; based on the principles of sustainability, this model shall lay the foundations for a new self-reliant production strategy based on Greece’s comparative advantages and shall be capable to lead our country towards fair growth casting balanced emphasis on economy, society and environment.
2. Our comparative advantages
It is in this spirit that the region of Central Macedonia, endowed with a wealth of comparative advantaged, such as:
- Primary production and secondary processing of food products
- Geostrategic position (Balkans, the Aegean Sea, Energy routes)
- Human resources waiting to be deployed – through the Coordination of Universities and Research Institutes (Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, University of Macedonia, International Hellenic University, ΤΕΙ, Center for Research and Technology) – Research – Innovation
- Environment (rivers, lakes, sea, forests, seashores, eco-systems, natural resources)
- Tourism (mountain, urban and costal zone)
- Business and trading activity
constitutes a privileged field for the implementation of sustainable policy, in view of achieving equitable and self-propelled development.
3. Conflicts and shivering dissensions
These advantages set up a rich tapestry of growth and investment opportunities that was however overgrown with disputes, discords and divisions. In addition to the ills that characterized Greece’s flawed financial growth until quite recently, the District of Central Macedonia and, in particular, the city of Thessaloniki have lost many opportunities for development not only due to the centralized model of development and the capital’s gigantism but also due to conflicts of interests at local level and shivering dissensions that resembled to a civil war.
4. The Thessaloniki Metro and its history
The case of Thessaloniki Metro is an irrefutable evidence of this, since it embodies the self-destructive logic that reigned in the city, the principle of “divide and rule”.
Actually, the history of Thessaloniki Metro depicts in the most vivid manner the history of the city itself.In other words, it is the evidence of ambitious efforts marked by retreat, denial and delays, reflecting a divisive society.
5. Standing united for Central Macedonia
To combat this, what is really needed today – in the Greece’s quest for finding its development orbit – is the strong mobilization by all productive forces, social and financial bodies who, in the most coordinated manner, will utilize all opportunities for growth and will manage to reverse recession, poverty and unemployment conditions prevailing in the District of Central Macedonia.
It is high time put aside all these ills. It is high time for us all to work together and set healthy and solid foundations for the future of our District. Providing the appropriate infrastructures is a sine qua non precondition for achieving this target, since infrastructures are the precondition for sustainable development and for improving the daily lives of thousands of citizens.
6. Metro project, a sustainable development project
Metro works constitute sustainable development projects since they contribute to:
- financial growth
- protection of the urban environment
- improvement of living conditions and quality of life.
As taught by the Athens and Thessaloniki Metro projects experience, metro works reveal the history and the culture of the cities where they are being constructed and operate.
7. Metro project, a project for financial growth
It is well proven that metro projects work as financial growth tools since during construction metro projects boost local economies through the absorption of funds and the creation of new job positions. In addition, operating metro networks automatically ensure new transport options in cities while they also stimulate trading and entrepreneurial activity.
8. Metro project, an environmental project
The dimension of the Metro projects that is related with growth opportunities goes hand in hand with other factors of critical importance to human activities, such as the environment. The benefits that the Metro operation entails extend also to the field of the protection and improvement of the environment. By solving the transport problem and by limiting drastically vehicular traffic in cities, Metro projects contribute to a significant reduction of air pollution entailing, thus, beneficial impact on the Greenhouse Effect, while they also improve dramatically urban environment.
9. The social dimensions of the Metro project
Rapid transports accompanied by reliable trips drastically change and improve living conditions and the quality of life in cities that are lucky to operate a Metro system.
Nowadays, a high number of 1,600,000 passengers – a number that equals to one third of the population in Athens and Piraeus – use the Metro system on a daily basis in Attica basin (Metro, ISAP, tramway and suburban railway systems); they are the best testimony that life in Attica urban cluster has changed thanks to the construction of the fixed route means of transport.
In other words, Metro projects have a strong social footprint. Their construction and operation has beneficial effects on everyone and mostly on employees and people coming from poorer backgrounds, who can enjoy safe and fast trips to/from their jobs.
10. Metro projects and culture
One thing though that is not obvious – yet constituting a most interesting feature of Metro works – is the harmonious coexistence of the metro construction activities with our ancient past, our history and our national cultural wealth. These works of contemporary civilization leave their mark by revealing the history and the cultural identity of the cities where Metro works are executed.
The Athens case, that reveals A city underneath a City, and displays archaeological finds in Metro Stations, archaeological finds from the construction of the Metro extension to Piraeus, exposed just a few days ago, as well as the archeological works in Thessaloniki where the largest excavation front in our country is under execution certify the cultural role that the Metro construction works can play in the cities with significant historical background.
11. Metro projects and sustainable development
Metro projects are alive. Their multifaceted contribution in drastically improving the life of the citizens is what renders Metro projects true projects of sustainable development.
12. Thessaloniki Metro starts again
In this context, under the new Management of ATTIKO METRO S.A., as of March, all works that remained stagnant, such as the entire Thessaloniki Metro project, have resumed; new impetus has been given to all activities of the company offering, this way, new perspectives to the projects themselves and also to the future of the city.
Every day, little by little, works are starting being executed again in Thessaloniki Metro worksites. Construction and archaeological works are being carried out in the Base Line worksites together with construction works in the extension to Kalamaria.
Currently, civil works have been completed by 60%, while archaeological works have been completed by 80%.
On March 28th 2016 the first Tunnel Boring Machine (TBM) commenced its journey and the second TBM on May 23rd. Currently, 80% of the TBM tunnels have been bored while the two TBMs are anticipated to have completed their activities by the end of the year.
Our objective is works to be fully developed in all fronts of the Base Line soon, in view of delivering the project to the city of Thessaloniki in the first semester of 2020.
13. A comprehensive Transport Plan for Thessaloniki
Allow me to remind you that the city of Thessaloniki does not have a comprehensive transport plan, since the last available design refers to 2000 conditions. To this end, in view of integrating Metro in the city’s transport reality in year 2020, ATTIKO METRO S.A., in cooperation with agencies from the city of Thessaloniki, shall prepare a design for a comprehensive transport plan where the dynamics and complementary role of means of transport of fixed and non-fixed route shall be taken into consideration.
14. VENIZELOU Station
At this point, I am pleased to announce the resolution of a critical issue as regards the progress of Thessaloniki Metro. It is the issue related to the most central station, i.e. VENIZELOU Station.
After the strong dispute that arose due to the archaeological finds which divided public opinion in the city of Thessaloniki, it is the first time that there is an agreement between the Ministry of Culture, the Municipality of Thessaloniki and ATTIKO METRO on the basis of a technical solution proposed by the company. This proposal is in line with the last decision made by the Central Archaeological Council and foresees the construction of the station at the same location where the archaeological finds were revealed, but at a greater depth, with simultaneous preservation and display of the said finds on site.
This way, a severe obstacle is overcome and we can now proceed to the completion of the entire project. Thus, the opinion that had been expressed right from the beginning by all agencies of the city of Thessaloniki regarding the co-existence of significant archaeological finds with the Metro station finally becomes reality. The burden of delays and long years of non-executed works leaves no room for idleness and calls for an immediate solution.
15. Outward-looking and new markets
Despite the extremely harsh times Greece is faced with, there are development opportunities both for Greece and the District of Central Macedonia. Major infrastructure projects, such as the Metro, constitute the backbone of the new development model for Greece.
With its know-how, experience and highly-trained personnel, ATTIKO METRO S.A. is here to envisage and execute sustainable development projects for the District of Central Macedonia and Thessaloniki. ATTIKO METRO also invests in an outward-looking cycle in order to gain its own share in the world market and through the provision of consultant services aims at integrating new markets into the eastern Balkan, the Black Sea region and Middle East.
16. Let us join our forces
Let us leave behind ills of the past and artificial divisions. Financial, social and technical agencies of the city and the District, let us all join our forces. Let us all plan an independent, balanced and fair development strategy that will serve as a shield and will guide us away from the crisis we are all living, protecting us at the same time from crisis and eventual challenges in the years to come.