2 May 2024

Celebrating the long-standing cooperation with Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland

Written by Anna Zaccaro & Susie hacquin
Step into the journey of the 2004 EU enlargement and its impact on transnational cooperation when Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland evolved in the Interreg Baltic Sea Region community as new EU members. 20 years after, we celebrate the strengthened collaboration that has driven a multitude of projects aimed at fostering a greener and more resilient future for the Baltic Sea region.

Since 1998, the countries of the Baltic Sea Region have cooperated in transnational Interreg projects for a better future.  In the beginning, it was a cooperation between the EU members Denmark, Germany, Finland and Sweden and the non-EU member Norway. However, the EU extended over the years and four countries around the Baltic Sea joined in 2004: Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland. Let’s jump back in time and learn about the journey of Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland with Interreg Baltic Sea Region.

Teresa Marcinow, Interreg Baltic Sea Region Monitoring Committee member, POLAND

Cooperation is always better than competition. I think about the idea that not everything is about money but everything is about people. It is about learning and growing stronger. To me, Interreg means also togetherness. I understand it as belonging to a certain territory but also to a certain group of people who are not indifferent, who care.
Welcome to the European Union

The fifth EU enlargement aimed to unify Europe for peace and prosperity. Initiating in 1997, the Luxembourg European Council jumpstarted the enlargement process, allowing each applicant, including Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland, to progress at its pace. Financial instruments like Phare, Ispa, and Sapard supported candidate countries in adopting EU rules and strengthening their institutions and economies by facilitating development in agriculture, infrastructure, research, culture, and education.

Greater together

Margarita Golovko, Interreg Baltic Sea Region Monitoring Committee member, ESTONIA

When I looked at projects that have been supported since 2004, I can see that challenges and objectives formulated for the current Programme are logically stemming from the ones 20 years ago. At the beginning of 2000s, we were talking about networking, exchange and learning. Although this is still relevant, today we are talking also about piloting and more practical results. It is a huge yet logical development of cooperation in the region.
Since 2004, our collaborative efforts with Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland have yielded remarkable outcomes. Cooperation intensified as the number of projects increased between the programming periods of 2000-2006 and 2014-2020. For example, Latvia saw 84 projects implemented between 2000 and 2006, which rose to 351 in total today. It is essential to note that the programming period 2021-2027 is ongoing, which is why the number of projects will keep rising.

Ilga Gruseva , Interreg Baltic Sea Region Monitoring Committee member, LATVIA

Over the years, the projects supported by the Programme have effectively addressed many territorial, economic and social developments that go beyond borders. They also explored opportunities to further shape the region.
Interreg projects cover a wide range of topics important in society in the four newer Programme countries.  With 17 UNESCO World Heritage sites, no wonder that one of the early projects that saw Poland involved was Ancient Times in the Baltic Sea Region (2003-2006). The project helped preserve and enhance cultural heritage sites while answering the tourism demand and the ecological challenges. Latvia has demonstrated high interest in mobility and transport challenges, participating in projects like Baltic Sea Cycling project (2004-2007). The project promoted the use of cycles combined with public transport to develop attractive and sustainable townscapes. Lithuania has been a pioneer country in women´s empowerment issues, since the early grant of the right to vote to women. Such commitment translated into projects like the Female Entrepreneurs’ Meetings (2004-2008) supporting women’s entrepreneurship through mentoring and microcredit initiatives. Environmental issues have long been taken seriously in the Baltic Sea Region countries. Estonia initiated a significant de-pollution process in 2008 which also takes force from Estonian organisations and authorities taking part in Interreg projects such as the Baltic Ecological Recycling Agriculture and Society (2003-2006).
The Future Ahead

Now let’s focus on the future! In the current Interreg Baltic Sea Region Programme 2021-2027, we already have 58 projects running in Estonia, 68 in Latvia, 54 in Lithuania, and 63 in Poland with great ideas about how to make the Baltic Sea region a greener area to live in.  Estonian partners take a prominent role in projects addressing innovative and climate-neutral societies. In the BaMuR project, Estonia leads efforts to equip cultural institutions with tools to maintain their societal role during crises, while in eRural Resilience, partners strive to support rural SMEs in enhancing digital literacy for e-marketing bio products. Latvian partners take a central role in projects focused on climate-neutral societies. Latvia leads the GlassCircle project, aiming at reducing environmental impacts by repurposing glass fiber waste, and Circular Spaces, which facilitates collaboration among maker spaces to promote eco-design and material reuse for sustainable product development.

Deimante Jakunaite, Interreg Baltic Sea Region Monitoring Committee member, LITHUANIA

The Programme offered wide opportunities for partners to find what’s best for Lithuanian regions. The projects covered a mixture of topics: clear waters, transport, nature, culture, tourism or innovation. Not only was it about big cities but also rural areas, from the port to the capital. The projects brought tangible benefits to our whole territory. What’s important, the interest from applicants is constantly growing. It is a very good sign for the Programme!

Lithuanian partners are leader in the projects belonging to innovative societies. For example, in the BSR Food Coalition, Lithuania LPs join efforts with project partners to connect local farmers and public authorities, ensuring consistent access to organic meals in schools and promoting a steady demand for healthy food. Additionally, in the PPI4cities initiative, partners guide public authorities in smart city development by integrating innovative designs into procurement practices, fostering sustainable urban solutions from the outset. Polish partners take a leading role in projects addressing water-smart societies. For example, in the Lakes Connect project, where public authorities, NGOs, and researchers collaborate to mitigate the impact of tourism on lake water quality. Moreover, polish partners are leading the newly funded MUNIMAP project, in which partners develop a legal framework for joint remediation of munitions dumped in the Baltic Sea protecting marine ecosystems and supporting maritime economies.

We are gearing up for the new projects incoming for the end of this programming period. We can’t wait to keep the cooperation tighter for the next 20 years.

More about the projects


Baltic Museum Resilience: Resilient museums and memory institutions for resilient societies in the Baltic Sea Region
The project BaMuR equips public authorities, NGOs and SMEs with a toolbox to help cultural and heritage institutions maintain their consolation role to people in times of crisis.
Read more about the project

eRural resilience

Creating resilient rural communities in BSR based on the opportunities of digital bio businesses
The project eRural resilience enables local authorities and business support organisations in rural areas to help SMEs increase their digital literacy in e-marketing of bio products and thus seize new business opportunities.
Read more about the project


Exploring full cycle circular economy for glass fiber industry
The project GlassCircle helps glass fiber manufacturers reduce the environmental impacts of glass fiber waste by bringing it back into use.
Read more about the project

Circular spaces

Circular Economy makerspace
The project Circular spaces brings together operators and users of maker spaces in eco-design and material reuse to jointly contribute to sustainable product development.
Read more about the project

BSR Food Coalition

Baltic Municipality’s Food Coalition
The project BSR Food Coalition connects local farmers and public authorities to ensure regular access to organic food meals at schools, and thus a continuous demand for healthy food supply.
Read more about the project


Supporting BSR cities to implement public procurement of innovation while providing practical tools created using AI technologies and gamification methods
In the project PPI4cities, public authorities learn how to build a smart city by designing innovations already at the procurement level.
Read more about the project

Lakes connect

Building networking hub for units interested in lakes protection in Baltic Sea tourist regions
The project Lakes connect establishes cooperation among authorities, NGOs and researchers in order to reduce the impact of tourism on water quality in lakes.
Read more about the project