North Karelia is the easternmost continental region of the European Union with approximately 163 000 inhabitants. The total surface area is 21 584 km2 of which 70 % is forests and 17 % lakes. The landscape is characterized by chains of rivers and lakes as well as ridges and, particularly in the eastern part of the region, vast marsh areas and extensive forested hills. The province has hundreds of kilometres of hiking, cycling, canoeing and kayaking routes as well cross country skiing tracks and snowmobile trails. There are plenty of services available for various outdoor activities in nature from independent hiking and camping into all-inclusive travel and holiday packages. The Finnish national landscape, which opens from the top of the hill Koli, is a famous landmark known throughout Finland. Of the other national parks in the region, Patvinsuo shows an example of the marshland nature and Petkeljärvi of the hilly landscape.
The sectorial structure of business and industry in North Karelia is diverse. The flagship of the export activity in the region is technology industry, which includes, among others, strong businesses concentrating in metals, machinery and apparatus construction. An internationally recognised pole of excellence has developed in forest bio-economy and a number of regionally significant bio-economy investments are under way in the region. North Karelia also has a rapidly growing ICT sector and production activity in agro-foodstuffs.
North Karelia has set itself the goal of becoming a region, which exceeds its level of self-sufficiency in renewable energy production and phases out the use of fossil fuel both in the production of energy and in traffic. North Karelia is committed to its objective of reducing the greenhouse gas emissions in its area by 80 % from the level of 2007 by 2030 as a part of the ‘Toward a carbon neutral region' HINKU network.
Solutions have been actively sought for the demographic ageing of the society in the region. North Karelia is a frontrunner in reform of the social and health services, the skills and competences of older people are seen as a resource for regional development and health technology serving the international pharmaceutical industry and the health sector is a growing industry.
North Karelia is also a region known for its education. Joensuu Campus at the University of Eastern Finland is, among other things, the largest and most versatile teachers' training unit in Finland providing excellent opportunities for the development and research of learning environments and education technologies. 15 % of the population in the region are graduate students.