Region of East Macedonia
Komotini is the administrative centre of the region of East Macedonia and Thrace, located in northeast Greece, close to the Bulgarian and Turkish borders. It has a population of around 67,000. It is an ancient city, which began as a Byzantine fortress in the 4th century AD. Today it is renowned for its mosaic of different ethnic groups and religions, which peacefully coexist. It is home to a large minority of Turkish and other Muslims, who live alongside Greek Christians, Roma and Greek refugees who have returned from the former Soviet Union. During the Balkan Wars the city was briefly part of Bulgaria.
One of the city’s strengths is the Democritus Thrace University, established in 1973. It is shared between other cities in Thrace but some nine departments and the central administration are based Komotini, where stay around 10,000 students. The university has had a positive effect on Komotini’s growth and expansion, and a significant part of the city’s social life revolves around the student population. Tourists are attracted by the city’s historic centre, where they find traditional shops and workshops that have often disappeared from other parts of Greece. The city also has a modern retail and leisure mall, Kosmopolis Park.
The city’s economy is based on the service sector, although the surrounding rural areas mainly rely on agriculture. This area was one of the first in Greece to be affected by the economic crisis. In particular it hit the underdeveloped northeast part of the city, where there are inadequate housing projects built in the 70s together with illegal Roma settlements just 1km away from city centre.