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Thessaloniki: Religious Leadership, Business Elites and Foreign Policy

Research

2013-12-30

Presentation of the report “Images of the religious leadership and the business elites in Thessaloniki about the contemporary Macedonian issue”

Inter Alia co-founder Nikos Pasamitros participated in the one-day conference titled: “Thessaloniki: Religious leadership, business elite and foreign policy”. Nikos, presented the report “Images of the religious leadership and the business elites in Thessaloniki about the contemporary Macedonian issue”, written by Nikos Pasamitros, Boyka Boneva and two research assistants Oxana Pavlova and Ana Eleftheriou under the auspices of the Institute of International Economic Relations (IIER).

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The Institute of International Economic Relations (IIER), following the completion of the Report “Images of the religious leadership and the business elites in Thessaloniki about the contemporary Macedonian issue”, written by Nikos Pasamitros, Boyka Boneva and two research assistants Oxana Pavlova and Ana Eleftheriou, held a one-day conference titled: “Thessaloniki: Religious leadership, business elite and foreign policy” on Wednesday, 18 December 2013,. The speakers were: Thanos Veremis, Emeritus Professor at the Department of Political Science and Public Administration at the University of Athens, Spyros Blavoukos, Associate Professor at the Department of International and European studies of the Athens University of Economics and Business and Nikos Pasamitros, Inter Alia’s Research & Analysis Coordinator and PhD Candidate at the Department of International, European and Regional studies of the Panteion University. The debate was coordinated by Dr. Charalambos Tsardanidis, Director of the Institute of International Economic Relations.

At the beginning of the conference, Dr. Ch. Tsardanidis set out the aims of this conference, namely to address the following issues: 1. Foreign policy and non-governmental actors; 2. The geopolitical and geo-economic importance of the city of Thessaloniki in the eyes of the religious and business elites; 3. Exploration of the images and perceptions of the religious elite in Thessaloniki with regards to the Macedonian issue; 4. The economic aspect of the issue and the position of economic and trade factors of Thessaloniki vis-à-vis the Macedonian issue.

Professor Veremis gave a brief and concise review of the historical roots of the Macedonian issue, describing the dispute between Greece and Bulgaria. Specifically, he explained the rise of the Bulgarian Church in the era of early nationalism (second half of 19 c.) and the various trends carried out by the multiple revolutionary groups within the Bulgarian national idea.

Then, Nikos Pasamitros, presented his joint research with Boyka Boneva, Inter Alia’s networking manager. He pointed at the main aspects of the contemporary Macedonian entanglement, namely: the name issue, the use of symbols and the Slav population in Greece. After a short review of the position of the political elite, he reported and explained the interventions, done by the Bishop of Thessaloniki Anthimos with regards to the name issue and his position against the Slav population in Northern Greece. Then, he underscored the coordination of the Thessaloniki business elite with the official line of the state, despite the tense reservations of many businessmen against the economic sanctions on FYR Macedonia. Finally, he discussed the favourable conditions offered by the economic development for the resolution of bilateral issues with FYR Macedonia, besides the contrary wording by the religious elite in Thessaloniki.

Professor Spyros Blavoukos from Athens University of Economics and Business talked about the demonization of the pressure groups and their activities in Greece and stressed the necessity for their institutionalization and inclusion in the decision-making process. He explained the opportunities provided by such perspective, as these groups are the ones who highlight issues, influence the leaders and offer alternative suggestions. Moreover, professor Blavoukos stressed the lack of an institutional platform for the legal and transparent function of the pressure groups and explained a possible positive impact that could be achieved through the opening of the decision-making process to new inputs. He particularly stressed on the economic sanctions on FYR Macedonia (1994-1995), when the position of the business elite was not taken into a serious account and the economic losses incurred by this policy were never assessed. 

Read the full research (written in Greek) HERE

© Inter Alia 2013