Karelia has become the first Russian region to be voted European Region of the Year. The award ceremony will take place in Petrozavodsk today. Taking part at the ceremony will be President of the international organisation European Region of the Year Xavier Tudela. As a Rosbalt correspondent was informed by the Karelian government's press office, 22 regions from 13 European countries took part in the competition. Four regions went through to the final. These were the Balearic Islands (Spain), Madeira (Portugal), the Republic of Karelia and the Bulgarian-Romanian region Nizhnii Dunai. Two winners were chosen from these four regions, these being Karelia and the Balearic Islands, as, in the jury's opinion, these two regions have the best prospects for raising their international profile.
The organisation represented by Mr Tudela has been arranging competitions between European regions since 2000. The aim of the competition is to increase awareness of the activity of European regions and attract new participants in the European regional infrastructure. Participation in the competition provides regions with the chance to demonstrate their cultural and economic development and the growth of their tourist industry to Europe and the rest of the world. By winning the competition Karelia will become the 'face' of Russia in Europe in 2003. The republic will now have a great opportunity to promote itself internationally, create a new image for itself and find new partners. There are already plans to sign an agreement of cooperation between tourist agencies in Karelia, Spain and the Balearic Islands and today information about Karelia is available in more than a thousand tourist agencies across Europe. A film about Karelia was broadcast on the all-European channel Euronews.
'Karelia and the Balearic Islands are facing different problems and goals. However we both have European values, these being socio-economic growth to raise the living standards of our people, civil society, peaceful democratic growth and honest government,' said head of the Karelian Republic Sergei Katanandov.
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