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Engaging in foreign missions is proving to be great boon for many municipalities in Greece
Cities in border regions in Greece have been engaging in diplomacy and foreign missions for years. While local authorities are of course not entitled to the right of conducting any foreign policy, mayors and municipal politicians have been discovering new alleyways not only to promote their own towns and cities but to also aid the foreign agenda of the central Greek government at a local level.
Trailblazers and trend-setters
By far the biggest trend-setter in the so-called “city diplomacy” was the former mayor of Thessaloniki Yiannis Boutaris. He left a legacy of successful initiatives that not only substantially increased the city’s tourism output but were also instrumental in helping the Greek government achieve its foreign policy objectives.
Following in Thessaloniki’s footsteps are other cities and border municipalities that share strong bonds with their neighbouring countries – among them are Kavala, Serres, Drama, Alexandroupoli, Florina, Kilkis and others. These towns have been putting a special emphasis on dialogue, communication and cooperation with their neighbours and thus attracting visitors and guests from surrounding countries.
Yet the city that has been the staunchest follower in Yiannis Boutaris’s footsteps has been Ioannina and its mayor Moses Elisaf. The city is situated near the border with Albania and Mayor Elisaf has been rolling out the red carpet for officials from Tirana.
His efforts appear to be garnering much success. Not only is Ioannina a much-coveted tourism destination, but it is also being visited by citizens of Albania for its hospitals, shops and other kinds of facilities.
Mayor Elisaf’s greatest success, however, has been his readiness to lead his city in overcoming ancient prejudices and historical issues. And while he is currently engaged in diplomatic efforts with Albania, he has already set his sights on attracting visitors, investors and tourists from Turkey and Israel as well.
With cities like Ioannina, Thessaloniki and Kavala reaping the fruits of successful "city diplomacy", it is not out of the question for other municipalities across Greece and even Europe to take up similar efforts in the future as well.
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