Euroregion “Country of Lakes” is a Latvian, Lithuanian and Belarusian Association of border Local Governments and Administrations, established in 1998 Kraslava town (Latvia). Currently Euroregion brings together 30 members – 15 municipalities from Latvia, 7 municipalities from Lithuania and 8 Administration from Belarus.
Activities of foundation „Euroregion “Country of Lakes”” contribute to the cross-border cooperation, exchange of experience and promoting integrated territorial development under the European Community’s priorities.
Euroregion “Country of Lakes” implements projects in the framework of programmes of the European Union Structural Funds target “European Territorial Cooperation”.
Euroregion area is 35.9 thousand km2, of which 15.2 thousand km2 (42 %) are located in Belarus, 12,1 thousand km2 (34 %) in Latvia, and 8,6 thousand km2 (24%) – in Lithuania.
Euroregion area has 823 thousand inhabitants, of which 375,5 thousand live (46 %) in Belarus, 275,6 thousand (33%) – in Latvia and 172 thousand (21 %) – in Lithuania.
Euroregion “Country of Lakes” has good and stable future prospects. All that’s been proposed and accomplished is intended for mutual understanding, friendly neighborly relations and for the well-being of the inhabitants of the three countries – Latvia, Lithuania and Belarus.
During the implementation of the Latvia-Lithuania-Belarus Cross-border cooperation program’s project “THIRD STEP” (LLB-1-083) (March 1, 2013 until august 31, 2014) Strategy for 2014-2020 was developed for the Euroregion “Country of Lakes”; also three major actions were organized – an investment forum Glubokoje (Belarus), an environment forum Švenčionys (Lithuania) and a song festival “GOSTI” in the city of Rēzekne (Latvia) with almost 600 participants from Latvia, Belarus and Lithuania. Five of the members of the Euroregion Directorate had the opportunity to represent Euroregion in OPENDAYS, in Brussels, whereas 28 member employees of the Euroregion “Country of Lakes” were able to gain new knowledge and experience, doing four-day training in two countries.
In order to strengthen the administrative capacity of the Euroregion “Country of Lakes” cross-border cooperation structure, ensure cooperation and common strategic planning in the border regions of Euroregion territory, every country held 3 interactive seminars where main strategic goals and tasks were developed. Neils Balgalis, the leader of the development of the strategy, has admitted that all the meetings were based on intense group work, brainstorming and thought kaleidoscope for the creation of new ideas. Through conversations and discussions the representatives of member states’ authority in the fields of culture, environment, tourism, business and social matters, and who are responsible for development planning, identified solutions and created a vision for the future, the most important directions of development which have been integrated in the established strategy.
- Common borders, nature, history and people are uniting aspects for the solving of socio-economic problems of remote regions using the cross-border cooperation approach;
- The highest results will be achieved by projects involving the maximum number of partners from all 3 cooperating countries when Euroregion’s interests are represented on a wide scale in the exchange of experience between municipalities, promotion of entrepreneurship, improvement of infrastructure, economic and tourism development, promotion of cross-border culture.
The project “THIRD STEP” has prepared a foundation for further work, ideas and project conceptions worth 35 million EUR. Contacts have been made and a team has been set-up for the implementation of important projects in the Euroregion territory until 2020.