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The first joint project meeting of the Transnational cooperation project "One Belt One Route - Baltic Silk Route" took place in Karhuseutu LEADER area near the city of Pori, Finland, from 23rd to 26th of April 2018. The purpose of the seminar was to meet with project partners, to discuss further cooperation, carry out project activities and exchange experience within the project area. Two activities were carried out: meetings between partner regions for the initiation of possible cooperation for entrepreneurs, and a tourism working group seminar for the development of a tourism package directed to be sold to the third countries. Partners in this project are from Finland (LAG Karhuseutu near Pori), Poland (LAG Puszcza Knyszyńska, near Belarusian border) and Hiiumaa (second largest island in West Estonia). The practical experience of dealing with Chinese tourists in Europe was introduced by Mr. Zhang Yu, Leitour GmbH and Mr. Chen Ruyian NBCCD. These companies have a long-term experience in offering European tours to Chinese tourists. It is estimated that over 1.22 million Chinese people are currently travel outside China, estimated 50% of them aiming to Europe. Of these, 93% travel in large groups. Every year, the Chinese tourism market rises by about 10%. 200% has grown the travels to Iceland and to Finland, the main attraction there is evidently the Nordic Light. We got an overview of the services that a Chinese tourist require, to take into account in the compiling of tour packages. For example, the food offered to a Chinese tourist is of great importance, because they cannot genetically digest milk products. The Chinese are accustomed to sleep in a broader beds than a European tourist used to, and the Chinese wants to drink warm water - it's probably the ancient wisdom we can learn from.

Seminar venue for presentations in Noormarkku hotel.


On 14-18th of September 2017,  LEADER colleagues from Leonido region of Peloponnesos (Greece) visited Hiiumaa and Saaremaa.The purpose of the visit was to get acquainted with the experience of our Biosphere Program Area, because Leonidio is on the way to submit the application for the UNESCO Man and Biosphere (MAB) certificate. The West Estonian Archipelago program area has this certificate since 1989. Today, there are about 600 program areas globally, making the Estonian islands a very special place in the world.

The delegation from Greece consisted of Xristina Kalatha, Biosphere Area Project Leader and Christos Georgitsis, the head of the Technical Department at the local development center. The visit of the Greeks was a response to the visit of the Hiiumaa and Saaremaa islanders in July, in the framework of the preparatory transnational co-operation project. Just as we went to see the Leonidio's Food and Arts Festival Melitazz, we invited Greeks to visit Hiiumaa food and art week.

Photo: Xristina as a Captain of the S/S Lisette

"We have never been abroad so close to home", said Jan Ignahhin, the President of Hiiumaa LAG, when we drove to Latvia. It is sadly true that we think that we know about our closest neigbours already everything. We were positively surprised to see how latvians manage their lives in the UNESCO Biosphere area. 

The networking trip, supported by the Nordic Council of Ministers, to the Vidzeme Biosphere Reserve (Latvia) took place 4-6. September 2017. The story of the Northern Vidzeme Biosphere Reserve is similar to that of our islands in the UNESCO Man and Biosphere Program area. Created at the end of the 80's of the last century, programs for zoning and management were launched, main directions of research were developed both on land and at sea, but also focused on enlightenment and training of local people. All this was stopped by the governments in the early 2000s, when it was found that the market is putting everything in place, including the relationship between nature and human coexistence. That, of course, did not happen. Approximately two years ago, the Vidzeme program coordinator Laura Taube was recruited, to start with nature awareness projects. 


In Båstad (Sweden) seminar on CLLD in December 2016, Reet Kokovkin (Hiiumaa, Estonia) and Christina Kalatha (Parnonas, Greece) met to talk about transnational cooperation on the topic of UNESCO Biosphere program areas. Both Hiiumaa and Parnonas LAGs have stated in their strategies for 2014-2020 that the ideology of biosphere program is useful to implement in their areas. The first visit was done in 6-9 July 2017 when delegation of Hiiumaa LAG and a representative of Saaremaa FLAG came to Leonidio to see the area and to have a feeling of famous festival: Melitzazz of Leonidio named «Loving Melitzazz 2017».

Seminar with new partners gave us rather good overview on what are the trends of development in Peloponnesus. Also discussion on the future project took place. Both partners agreed that defining stakeholders and informing them of the Biosphere program in our respective areas will be the main topic of the project. Next meeting is planned to take place in Hiiumaa on September, during the Autumn festival. 


Photo: partners discussing the project


Suported by the Nordic Council of Ministers program for networking of NGOs, 5 people from Hiiumaa and Saaremaa came to Blekinge Biosphere Program Area to refresh contacts and to learn the method of management of nature and hisotric value areas. Blekinge BPA is situated in the southern part of Sweden, in the Karlskrona and Ronneby commune territory. The area size is 210,000 ha, with 156,000 hectares of sea and 54,000 hectares of land. BPA combines culture ühet Reserve - Ronneby Brunnspark, 37 nature reserves, 72 Natura 2000 area. In the region lives 85 000 inhabitants, of whom about 4,000 live in the archipelago, where some islands are, however, connected to mainland via bridges. Locals are proud of Blekinge Institute of Technology where it is possible to study the master's program for the sustainable development magement . Blekinge BPA consideres as its main brand value the coastal fishing and small farms, where traditional skills such as boatbuilding; landscape values, small islands and bays, which create a unique sea views, have been kept alive.


During the last week of April, Hiiumaa and Saaremaa LAGs had a study tour to Sweden - first to Landsort and then to Gotland (and Farö). The aim of the visit was to follow the developments of the Region Gotland, especially in the field of local food. Gotland has a very strong island brand which should be of big help to sell local produce. The Food Strategy of Gotland confirms this, but also sees the challenge to work with larger variety of production and putting the consumer decisions in the centre of the strategic plan.

On 21 September 2016, the General Assembly of Hiiumaa LAG approved the the preparatory application of transnational cooperation, in which Karhuseutu LAG from Finland and LAG Knyszynska Forest from Poland are the partners. First partner meeting of this project with expert Jukka Järvinen was carried on in Finland in February 2017. Visit to People's Republic of China took place on 15-23. March 2017. The visit of ELARD delegation to China had a target to get acquainted with Chinese authorities and to prove that LEADER method in Europe exist and is successful. The head of the delegation was the ex-president of ELARD Petri Rinne, accompanied by Hiiu County Governor Riho Rahuoja and the Head of the Hiiu County Development Department Aivi Telvik. The project partners were represented by Jaana Mälkki and Heikki Perko from Finland, Adam Kaminski and Martha Malecka from Poland and Reet Kokovkin Hiiumaa. In addition, the project involved experts Jukka Järvinen and Chen Ruiyan. The transnational project aims at organizing thematic seminars to the Chinese public sector in partner countries together with Europe-China meetings for our entrepreneurs to establish contacts; create travel packages for tourism marketing of our areas in China, and if all goes well, offer European advise on topics of interest to Chinese rural areas.
In the cooperation agreement, prepared by partners, the first seminar is intended to be carried out in Poland in autumn 2017, the second in 2018 in Finland during the winter and the third in Hiiumaa in autumn of 2018. Tour packages must take into account the specificities of the Chinese public, be interesting for visitors, and useful for Europeans.
On photo Adam Kamiski, Heikki Perko, Petri Rinne and Jukka Järvinen

Hiiumaa LAG wishes you Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!


Since December this year, all major gateways to Estonian islands Hiiumaa and Saaremaa, such as harbours and airports are marked with sighs indicating that visitors have arrived to UNESCO West-Estonian Biosphere Area. Hiiumaa LAG is unique in Estonia, for we have declared in our development strategy to carry out the ideas of the MAB (Man and Biosphere) program. The slogan of our biosphere area  is: “Islands and Sea – safeguarded environment”.

Lia Rosenberg, the Program officer comments: "Our desire is that people would be aware of our biosphere and realise that all in this world demand responsible care and safeguard. Islands have limited resources and are isolated, but also a rich natural and cultural heritage. The most important thing is that both locals and visitors know how to keep and manage our heritage in sustainably way”.