>> Home / Regions - Areas / Baltic Countries.

Baltic Countries

Geography, Economy and Population Issues


The Baltic countries vary in total population from around 1, 2 and 3.5 million in Estonia (EE), Latvia (LV) and Lithuania (LT), to around 40 million in Poland (PL). Urban population ratio ranges from around 60% in Poland to around 70% in Estonia. Topography consists mostly of low laying flat plains, with some mountains at the south of Poland. All four countries border the Baltic Sea, Estonia having 1,520 islands. Estonia and Lithuania are rich with lakes. All four countries are vulnerable to floods. The most abundant natural resources include arable land (except in Estonia), coal and natural gas in Poland and peat in the other three countries. Latvia is also relatively rich in timber and hydropower. Common environmental problems stem from sulfur dioxide from burning coal and oil shale.


Table 1. Economical and population datai

Estonia Latvia Lithuania Poland
GDP $ billion 19.78 24.05 36.36 468.5
Growth rate % 3.1 -0.3 1.3 3.8
GDP per capita $ (PPP) 19,100 14,700 16,000 18,800
Total surface sq km 45,228 64,589 65,300 312,685
Total population 1,282,963 2,204,708 3,535,547 38,441,588
Population growth rate % -0.641 -0.597 -0.276 -0.062
Population in the capital 399,000 711,000 546,000 1,710,000
Urban population % 69 68 67 61
Rate of urbanization % 0.1 -0.4 -0.5 -0.1
Unemployment % 16.9 18.4 17.8 12.1
The services sector produces around 70% of GDP in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, and about 60% in Poland, while the industry sector creates just below 30% in all four countries. GDP per capita (at purchasing power parity) ranges from 14,700 $ in Latvia to 19,100 in Estonia, while the unemployment ranges from 12.1 in Poland to 18.4 in Latvia (see table 1).


i Source: CIA the World Factbook


Climate Issues


Table 2. Mean annual temperature and precipitationii

Mean annual temperature °C 4.7 5.7 7.2 7.7
Mean annual rainfall mm/yr 568 658 675 600

Poland's climate can be described as a temperate climate with relatively cold winters and warm summers, which is greatly influenced by oceanic air currents from the west, cold polar air from Scandinavia and Russia, as well as warmer, sub-tropical air from the south. The climate of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania belong to the Atlantic continental region of the temperate zone. The summers are moderately warm and winters are moderately cold(see table 2).


Recent observations in Poland show positive temperature trends in particular in the mountain areas and at the Baltic coast; similar trends have been observed in the other countries of the Baltic region. Precipitation shows great geographical and annual variation, it is not possible to draw any conclusion about recent trends.

Climate projections show slight increase (4-11%) in the total annual precipitation amount due to the essential increase in winter and slight decrease in summer (Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia). Projections on possible ambient temperature change in Baltic region certify that the annual mean temperature will increase by approximately 2.6°C (B2 scenario) to 4°C (A2 scenario). Projections on possible changes of the volume of precipitation indicate that the annual volume of precipitation will increase by 8-11% in A2 scenario or by 4-8% in B2 scenario. In the course of the 21st century, the water level in the Baltic Sea can rise by 0.3-0.6 m. The main threats connected with sea level rise are the flooding of coastal areas, the erosion of sandy beaches and the destruction of harbour constructions.


ii Sources:; (Lithuania); (Latvia)




All countries border the Baltic Sea and are covered with numerous small lakes and rivers. The most important among them are Lake Peipus (3555km2), the 5th biggest lake of Europe, and Narva River, both located in Estonia, as well as Nemunas River in Lithuania. The longest rivers flowing through Poland are the Oder and Vistula, both draining the land into the Baltic Sea. Poland is further covered with thousands of lakes covering an area of more than one hectare. The dependency ratio, which expresses the percent of total renewable water resources originating outside of a country, in Latvia is 52,78%, in Lithuania 37,51% and in Poland 12,99% (see table 3), while Estonia receives limited water from neighboring countries, having a dependency ratio of 0,74%.

Table 3. Water related statistical data, 2009iii

Estonia Latvia Lithuania Poland
Dependency ratio (%) 0.7496* 52.78* 37.51* 12.99*
Water resources: total renewable (natural) (109 m3/year) 12.81* 35.45* 24.9* 61.6*
Total water withdrawal (109 m3/year) 1.7961 : 2.3781 11.96
Total water withdrawal per capita (m3/inhab/year) 1.3371 : 703.81 312.7
Fresh surface water withdrawal (primary and secondary) (109 m3/year) 1.3042 : : :
Fresh groundwater withdrawal (primary and secondary) (109 m3/year) 0.2742 : : :
Agricultural water withdrawal as % of total water withdrawal (%) 0.44541 : 3.4481 9.691
Industrial water withdrawal as % of total water withdrawal (%) 96.551 : 89.991 59.64
Municipal water withdrawal as % of total withdrawal (%) 3.0071 : 6.561 30.66

*FAO estimate. : No data. 1 No data for 2009, 2007 data instead. 2 No data for 2009, 2005 data instead


Water quality management is considered a problem in all four Baltic countries, with pollution and eutrophication being problematic for people's livelihoods and the environment. Though, a decline in fertilizer use and the construction of new wastewater management plants in the past years have reduced the pollution already. Another water management challenge is arising for the existing drainage and irrigation systems in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania due to new land ownerships after the fall of the Soviet Union and a prevailing economic situation in these countries.


iii Source:




This project is cofinanced by the ERDF and made possible by the INTERREG IVC programme


The Interregional Cooperation Programme INTERREG IVC, financed by the European Union’s Regional Development Fund, helps Regions of Europe work together to share experience and good practice in the areas of innovation, the knowledge economy, the environment and risk prevention. EUR 302 million is available for project funding but, more than that, a wealth of knowledge and potential solutions are also on hand for regional policy-makers.