It was presided by Balearic leader Francesc Antich, who did not comment on the controversy caused by the declarations of conservative Euro-deputy Carlos Ripoll, who said that this concession did not have the support of the European Parliament. But Xavier Tudela, chairman of the organisation which promotes the designation of European Region of the Year said: This controversy does not affect the organisation or our initiative, it only affects the Balearic Islands, which are the only party affected. Tudela went on to explain that it was a civil initiative, like the Olympic Games. As to the letter sent by the European Parliament to Xavier Tudela, in which it states that the body has nothing to do with the event, Tudela said that he had heard about it through the media. I am surprised that a letter addressed to me should appear in the press when I have still not received it, he said yesterday. He added that I will reply in an official manner when the time comes. Chustov Lev Yurievich, the deputy minister of economic development and head of the delegation from Carelia presided the act together with Antich and Tudela. In his speech, he defended the importance of regions for the equitative structure of Europe. He later told the media that he did not want to hear anything about Russia. Carelia, he said, wants to benefit from the opportunity offered by this designation. He added We have a lot to learn from the Balearics, a region with great experience in the tourist industry. A manifesto was also read out at the ceremony which took place in the Consulat de la Mar, government headquarters. It accepted the declaration on regions approved in Basle in 1996 by the Assembly of European Regions. In his speech, Francesc Antich pointed out that being named European Region of 2003 was a good opportunity to make known our historical, cultural and linguistic personality. Among those present at the meeting were Antoni Garcías, the government spokesman, labour minister Miquel Rosselló and Francesc Rosselló, manager of the Federation of Local Entities. There were no members of the Majorcan Socialist Party. Among activities which will take place in the Balearics this year are a meeting of the European Union's Islands Commission in Palma on March 13 and 14. There will also be a science and technology fair, a congress on medieval ceramics in the Mediterranean, a congress on management and biodiversity in Mediterranean islands, and an international symposium on university programmes for older people. There will also be an international congress of European municipalities and May 9 has been designated European Day. Other events include a congress on sustainable tourism, touristic activities, the marketing of farm products and fortifications. The latter will be held in Ibiza in the second quarter of the year.