European Region of the Year has been holding competitions between countries of the EU since 2000. The purpose of these competitions is to increase awareness of the activity of Europe's regions and to attract new participants into the process of European regional construction.
The nominations for 2003 for the first time featured countries from outside the EU. A total of 23 regions from 14 European countries were entered for European Region of the Year 2003. The winners were the Balearic Islands and the Republic of Karelia. An agreement was signed in Petrozavodsk on July 23 between the Karelian government and the European Region of the Year organisation on Karelia's nomination for the title of European Region of the Year 2003.
Karelia's victory in the competition means that in 2003 the region will be 'the face of Russia in Europe'. According to Karelian leader Sergei Katanandov, 'the year 2003 will be packed with events to boost the region's image, such as Petrozavodsk's 300th anniversary celebrations, an international chamber music festival in Kostomuksha, and a conference of the Finno-Ugric peoples'. Katanandov is also hoping that the project will attract additional investment into Karelia's economy.