The Balearics and the Republic of Karelia (Russia), have been chosen as European Region of the Year 2003 by an International Jury. The European Region of the Year project gets under way with this first nomination, and will formally come into effect on 1 January 2003. It is an initiative which aims to increase awareness and recognition of the activities of the regions in Europe, make new contributions to building up the regions and European integration and, finally to show the regions chosen as European Region of the Year in their European and international context, from every aspect, including the social, cultural, economic and tourism aspects. Balearic President Antich said last night that it was an honour for the Balearics, adding that the only two Spanish autonomous regions who put their names forward were the Balearics and Madrid. Antich said that the Balearics was entered in order to establish the region as a more important voice in Brussels and to help pursuade the European Union to give autonomous regions a bigger role. Antich said that the Balearic government believes the public of the European Union should be given a bigger say in the future of the Union, a theme the Balearics, which is already lobbying for greater EU powers and recognition, will use next year to promote. The initiative has certain similarities with the European Capitals of Culture, but this is in the sphere of the regions. Every year, two regions will be designated as European Region of the Year, regions which must come from different countries, as is the case of the Balearics and the Republic of Karelia. The Balearics, which covers an area of 5'014 km, hase 1'238 km of coastline, and a population of 760'000, is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Europe. Last year, ten million people visited this region. The services sector is indisputably the largest source of income for the Balearics. The Republic of Karelia is located in North–western Russia. It covers an area of 180'000 km, has a 732 km–long border with Finland, and a population of 766 000. Over 49% of the region is covered with forest, and 25% with water. There are over 60'000 lakes. Lakes Ladoga and Onega are the largest. The total length of the rivers is 83'000 km. Mining and forestry are the Republic's main sources of income. In the next few weeks, official signing ceremonies for the nominations will be held in Palma and Petrozavodsk (Karelia); capitals of the two regions chosen. This will be the occasion for a presentation of the projects that both regions will develop to mark their nomination as European Region of the Year 2003.

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