Boost for Muslims of Thrace

The development and prosperity of Thrace is a «top priority» for the government, Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis said yesterday during a visit to the northern region, which is home to a Muslim minority of more than 100,000. «The government is working systematically toward the implementation of a modern European minority policy,» Bakoyannis said. «We have one exclusive goal – the extension and consolidation of the civil rights and equality before the law of the Muslim minority of Thrace,» she said. The government’s latest initiative foresees the extension of a 0.5 percent quota – reserved for the Muslim minority in universities and technical colleges – to jobs in the public administration sector. Bakoyannis heralded the new measure during a speech before Komotini’s Chamber of Commerce yesterday. She also listed several other measures on the government’s agenda, which include state relief for mortgages and loans belonging to the management committees of Muslim religious foundations, legislative reform foreseeing the election of leaders to manage these foundations, and the creation of 240 posts for Islamic teachers in the Muslim religious seats of Komotini, Xanthi and Didymoteicho. «With these new measures, we hope to cure weaknesses, relieve shortfalls and open up new roads for members of the minority in Thrace,» Bakoyannis said, adding that the government aimed to make Thrace «a model of open, democratic society.» The government’s development policy for Thrace is showing «impressive signs of taking off,» the minister said, stressing that the region was second in all of Greece in terms of attracting investments and third as regards the value of its exports. Bakoyannis also visited the village of Organi, in the mountains of Rhodope, which is a well-run community of some 3,000 people but is facing an economic crisis following the restriction of EU subsidies for local tobacco farming. Bakoyannis said the government would support the creation of a new school and kindergarten but did not answer appeals by community leaders for extra funding for tobacco farmers.