Name: Lääne maakond, Läänemaa (Estonian) Lääne County (English)

Regional symbols:

source: www.riigikantselei.ee

Population: 25 953 (01.01.2014), (source: www.stat.ee)

Population Density: 11,4 inhabitants/ km², (source: www.stat.ee)

Size: 2 383 km², this is 5,3% of the total territory of Estonia,

(Lääne County has 237 islands and islets with an area of 108 km²), (source: www.lmv.ee)


Languages: 88% Estonian, 12% other languages (source: www.stat.ee)

Lääne County’s location in Estonia:

source: www.stat.ee

Distance from the biggest towns of Estonia:

Tallinn – 100 km

Pärnu – 111 km

Tartu – 258 km

Narva – 314 km

Kuressaare – 155 km

(source: www.westest.ee)

Lääne County is situated in the western part of Estonia, about 100 km from the capital Tallinn. Lääne County consists of 12 municipalities: 1 of them is Haapsalu town (an administrative centre of Lääne County) and 11 others are municipalities: Hanila, Kullamaa, Lihula, Martna, Noarootsi, Nõva, Oru, Ridala, Risti, Taebla and Vormsi. More information regarding the Public Administration and Historical Development of Estonia is available here: http://www.estonica.org/en/State/

The biggest municipality in the region is Haapsalu town, with the population of 10 811 (from 01.01.2014) inhabitants. The smallest municipality in Lääne County is Vormsi island with 417 inhabitants (source: www.lmv.ee).

Photo: Läänemaa Tourism (source: http://www.stat.ee/ppe-laane-maakond)

In Lääne County there are two larger harbours. One of them is situated in Rohuküla and the other in Virtsu. Ferry connection between mainland and islands Vormsi and Hiiumaa is offered through Rohuküla harbour and connection between mainland and island Saaremaa through Virtsu harbour. Other harbours are mainly suitable for yachts (source: www.westest.ee). There are quays not only for passenger ferries/ships, but also for (oil) tankers, fishing boats, and (sailing) yachts (more information: http://www.saarteliinid.ee/eng).

Photo: Mihkel Servinski (source: http://www.stat.ee/ppe-laane-maakond)

Many years ago there used to be a railway connection to Lääne County which doesn’t work any more. The old railroad has been rebuilt as a 50 km long light traffic/health road (source: www.stat.ee). A proud witness of the previous railway connection to and from Haapsalu is the building of railway station which was completed in 1906 and is unique with its 216 m long covered platform. The Estionan Railway Museum is now located there (source: www.jaam.ee). Nowadays the rebuilding of the railway connection is a hot topic in the region again.

During the Soviet era Haapsalu had a military aircraft base which was located 4 km southwest of Haapsalu. Nowadays the Haapsalu Airfield (also called Kiltsi Airfield) is not used as an airfield but is used for a lot of extreme sport events (speed racing, motocrosses etc).

Photo: Jaak Sirp (source: http://www.stat.ee/ppe-laane-maakond)

The region of Lääne County is unique in that 23% of its territory is under protection in a greater or lesser extent (source: www.lmv.ee). For example Matsalu National Park is situated here. It was included to the list of wetlands of international importance under Ramsar convention in 1976. There are 282 species of birds, 49 species of fish and 47 species of mammals registered in the area of the nature reserve as well as 772 species of vascular plants. Also the landscapes are unique and deserve to be protected - floodplains, reedbed, coastal meadows, wooded meadows and islets (source: www.matsalu.ee).


The greatest contributers to Läänemaa employment rate and also active in international markets are industries producing wood, food, recreation services and light industries. The attractiveness of Läänemaa is most of all connected to tourism and recreation. This image has been greatly helped by good marketing and Haapsalu popularisation as a good place to spend the holidays.


Photo: Arvo Tarmula (source: http://www.stat.ee/ppe-laane-maakond)

The most well known and also most significant employers in the region are Haapsalu Uksetehas AS (door and window factory), PVMP-EX OÜ (sewing factory Nurme Vabrik), PKC Eesti OÜ (wiring harless factory), Est-Trans Kaubaveod AS (hauler), AS Heal (Fra Mare Thalasso SPA), Swedest Motel Group AS (Roosta Holiday Village), Haapsalu Tarbijate Ühistu (retail trade), Haapsalu Kuurort AS (Spa Hotel Laine) etc.

Number of enterprises in Läänemaa (from 31.12.2009): 2413, including 1024 self-employed enterpreneurs and 1386 limited-liability companies (source: www.stat.ee).

According to the data from Statistics Office (from 20.04.2010) 36% of the enterprises are located in Haapsalu town, 14% in Ridala municipality, 10% in Lihula municipality, 7% in Taebla and Hanila municipalities.

Data sources: Statistics Office (from 20.04.2010), www.stat.ee

The companies registered in Haapsalu town were according to the Statistics Office in 2009 mainly engaged in: wholesale and retail trading (including vehicle repair), construction, professional, scientific and technical activities and manufacturing.

In Ridala, Lihula and Taebla townships the registered companies were mostly engaged in:

agriculture, forestry, fishing; wholesale and retail trading (including vehicle repair); construction and manufacturing.

The main companies active in Läänemaa are small or medium sized enterprises. 90% of enterprises have less than 10 employees, 8% of enterprises have 11-49 employees. Many Läänemaa enterpreneurs are actively seeking new possibilities and innovative solutions for bringing their companies forward.


Development Centre of Lääne County

The Development Centre of Lääne County is a development organization situated in Haapsalu. The mission of the centre is to support the development of entrepreneurship in Lääne County, to increase the capasity of non-profit oragnizations and to increase competitiveness of the region. The clients of the centre are: potential and active entrepreneurs, non-profit organizations and municipalities in Lääne County (source: www.lak.ee).

Estonian Unemployment Insurance Fund, Office of Läänemaa

The objective of the Estonian Unemployment Insurance Fund (Töötukassa) is the payment of unemployment insurance benefits, benefits upon collective termination of employment contracts and benefits upon the insolvency of employers in accordance with the Unemployment Insurance Act and other legislation (source: www.tootukassa.ee).

The way Töötukassa is governed reflects the interest of three stakeholders in the unemployment insurance scheme and employment policy: the government, employers and employees. Töötukassa has a central office in Tallinn and 15 regional Offices (source: www.tootukassa.ee).


The vocational and higher education institutions in Lääne County are:

Haapsalu Vocational Education Centre

The main activity of the Centre is to arrange initial vocational training. Most of the specialities are based on basic education (cook, hospitality service, construction elaboration, builder, joinery and computer service). In 3-4 years students get the occupational secondary education from this school. Six specialities (tourism arrangement, handicraft, accounting, restoration of wooden and stoned buildings, restoration of wooden furniture and catering) are based on secondary education and the studies take place periodically - one week of contact classes per month during two years of study - which is the best for working people. The adult training courses in the further education department take place throughout the year (source: www.hkhk.edu.ee).

Specialities based on basic school (3 – 4 years):

  • Cook

  • Accomodation Service

  • Builder

  • Construction Elaboration

  • Woodworker

  • Computer Service

Specialities based on secondary education (study time 2 years, extension courses):

  • Accountant

  • Tourism Arrangement

  • Handicraft

  • Restoration of Wooden Furniture

  • Restoration of Wooden and Stone Buildings

  • Catering

Specialities based on basic education with simplified curricula (3 years):

  • Domestic Economy

  • Construction Elaboration

Haapsalu Vocational Education Centre has several partner schools in Finland, Germany, Lithuania, Latvia, Portugal, Spain, Slovenia, France, Italy etc.

Tallinn University Haapsalu College

Tallinn University Haapsalu College was established on the 20th of May 1998. A regional college has to be the educational centre of the region and consider first and foremost the developmental needs of the area: on one hand providing possibilities for acquiring excellent higher education and on the other hand participating actively in the local development activities (source: www.hk.tlu.ee).

Tallinn University Haapsalu College provides possibilities for acquiring higher education in the following specialities (from 01.09.2010):

  • Primary School Teacher

  • Applied Computer Science

  • Public and Business Management

  • Health Promotion Specialist

  • Traffic Safety

  • Handicraft Technology and Design

Tallinn University Haapsalu College is engaged in a variety of international activities such as projects and exchange programmes. More information about the international activities is available here: http://www.hk.tlu.ee/?LangID=2&CatID=1898

Today Tallinn University Haapsalu College is managing a strategically important project in Lääne County called Health Promotion and Rehabilitation Competence Centre, which will be an internationally acknowledged research, development, implementation and information mediation centre with its focus on two more specific areas:

  • research on curative mud, evaluation of its impact, development of know-how based entrepreneurship;

  • evaluation of population’s mobility and physical activity, its development (prevention and rehabilitation), counseling, implementation of know-how in entrepreneurship. More information regarding the Competence Centre is available here: http://www.hk.tlu.ee/?LangID=2&CatID=2113


In 1228 the Archbishop of Riga formed an Island-Western diocese in Estonia. The first residence of the diocese was located in Lihula. In 1251 the residence was transferred to Old-Pärnu. In 1263 the town of Old-Pärnu was burned to the ground by Lithuanians and Haapsalu was selected as the location of the new centre. A new episcopal castle together with a cathedral was built here. It was the beginning of the building of estates and churches in parish centres.

Source: www.haapsalu.ee

In 1558 the Livonian War began and lasted for over two decades. During the Livonian War Swedes, Danes, Russians and Poles fought for the land. In 1559 bishop Johannes V Münchhausen sold the diocese to a Danish king, Frederik II, who ceded it to his brother Duke Magnus.

From 1581 the area was subordinate to Swedish state power. In 1628 Haapsalu was bought by Count Jacob De la Gardie. One of the major changes during the Swedish time was that the manors developed and the land went from the state to the common people. During the Great Northern War Läänemaa was joined to the Russian Empire.

During the 19th century Haapsalu became a popular resort town of the Russian Empire and in 1904 a railway line was opened between Tallinn and Haapsalu.

At the time of the first Estonian Republic Läänemaa became a county which at the time of the Soviet system became a district. In 1990 the name became Lääne County once more (source: www.muuseum.haapsalu.ee).


The most famous sights in Läänemaa are Haapsalu old town and the seaside Promenade. Haapsalu Episcopal Castle, which was built in the 13th century and is one of the best preserved strongholds in Estonia, is located here. In the 19th century doctor Carl Abraham Hunnius (1797-1851) discovered therapeutic curative mud in Haapsalu and since the Russian czarist time Haapsalu has been recognized as a famous resort town (sources: www.muuseum.haapsalu.ee; www.stat.ee).

Source: www.haapsalu.ee

Swedes arrived to the coastal areas and islands of Estonia in the 13th century, differently from Estonian peasants, the Estonian Swedes lived according to the so called Swedes law and were personally free. They developed their own original culture and their archaic language survived (source: http://avasta.laanemaa.ee/en/frontpage.html). The Estonian Swedes culture is presented by Estonian Swedes Museum (source: www.aiboland.ee).

The local museums introduce history and local traditions. You can get a good overview of what life was like for the local peasants centuries ago. It is surely worthwhile to keep your eye on the events’ calendar as the museums are often arranging special events (source: www.westest.ee). The mastery of Haapsalu craftsmen is characterized by Haapsalu lace shawl which is unique in its style and has been known in Estonia and abroad for over one and a half centuries (source: www.muuseum.haapsalu.ee).

Photo: Jaak Sirp (source: http://www.stat.ee/ppe-laane-maakond)

It is true that Haapsalu and Läänemaa attract creative people - many Estonian artists, musicians and writers have moved here. There is a museum of the most well-known Estonian artist Evald Okas. The fashion designer Liivia Leshkin and her husband Siggi have chosen Haapsalu to be their home. Their studios welcome everybody. Artist Epp-Maria Kokamägi, writer Mihkel Mutt and other well-known people in Estonian cultural life love to spend their time in Haapsalu (source: www.westest.ee).

The gallery of Astrid Lindgren's books’ illustrator Ilon Wikland was opened in Haapsalu 2006. The gallery is one of the children's favorite places in Haapsalu.

There is a house museum of a famous painter called Ants Laikmaa located near Taebla. Lyckholm museum, situated in former Saare mansion horse stables which are restored ruins today, is located in Noarootsi (source: www.stat.ee).


How to secure competitiveness and innovativeness in your organization? In 2009 the students of Haapsalu College interviewed entrepreneurs as well as leaders of vocational and higher education organisations of Lääne County. Below is a short presentation of the survey.

7.1. Innovation in Läänemaa enterprises

From Läänemaa 5 enterprises, including 3 service enterprises (treatment, beauty and accommodation services), 2 production enterprises (producing furniture details, building heating systems) participated in the innovation survey of an international project INTO-PRACTICE. The choice was made from among enterprises that cooperate with Läänemaa educational institutions, are oriented towards export and have actively applied for and received support from EAS (Enterprise Estonia).

The factors that ensure competitiveness

The entrepreneurs emphasized the improvement of quality and reliability of the services and products as means to ensure competitiveness in the enterprises participating in the survey. According to the entrepreneurs the stability of the enterprise and the wide choice of services and products help to ensure success. Entrepreneurs also emphasized long-term experiences, location and finding a suitable niche as the main factors of supporting competitiveness. The enterprises that participated in the survey are clearly focused on their main activities and are focused on areas, where they have knowledge, skills and long-term experiences.

Innovation in Läänemaa enterprises

Innovations applied in Läänemaa enterprises are mainly connected to the development and modernization of new products, services and technologies as well as improvement of existing products and services. When describing innovation applications in detail the heads of enterprises emphasize that any employee can be the initiator of the innovation.

The new idea is then considered based on the possibilities of existing resources and experiences. Heads of enterprises see their role as leaders of the application processes of the innovation. Entrepreneurs see the need to include the employees who will apply the innovations in a later stage already in the planning processes. The new idea has to become familiar to the employee otherwise the necessary improvements might not apply.

Hindrances to application of innovations

The main hindrance as brought out by the entrepreneurs is the resistance of employees. The application of innovative solutions can sometimes be hindered by clients who have become used to existing solutions. In the latter case old solutions will be reapplied. A production entrepreneur emphasized that innovation can be hindered by extensive scientific research, which is sometimes complicated and hard to find.

The role of cooperation in the application of innovations

Cooperation is considered very important and necessary by the entrepreneurs. The partners are usually other enterprises in the same field, also purveyors and clients. Partners are often included already in the planning process of innovation. The cooperation needs of enterprises are mostly connected to finding and ensuring markets for services and products.

7.2. Some innovative approaches in education

The factors that ensure competitiveness

A niche of the vocational education centre is to be ready to teach students with different needs, for example the centre is ready to admit students with standard dialect physical disabilities, within the framework of the majority of standard areas of specialisation. A good factor is the location and initial conscious direction.

It was mentioned by the representative of the higher education institution that an important factor in competitiveness is the personnel (the capacity for empathy, the openness of people, and the readiness to work together). One of the factors that ensure competitiveness is the studies offered (for example integration of Class Teacher curriculum with Applied Computer Science).

Quality and reliability as well as service and support were mentioned as competitive advantages by both vocational and higher education institution representatives.

Innovation in education

Each year the vocational education centre has strategic meetings with their leadership in order to plan new specialities. They discuss the structure of curricula and make changes that are based on market demands. For example, as general builders are not needed as much as before, the speciality of real estate maintenance has been opened instead. In order to develop successful curricula it is important to cooperate with companies.

The representative of higher education institution explains that everything in continuously renewed. People working at the college ca not think or work routinely. New ideas, new solutions and combinations in the framework of curricula as well as subjects are needed all the time. When new members are added to the workforce group processes, cooperation between personnel and development of the team start again from the beginning. The division of roles begins: cooperation with each other and the creation of new connections. The results of which are continuous new challenges for each employee.


Business services:

Development Centre of Lääne County

SA Läänemaa Arenduskeskus

Manager: Andres Huul

Address: Lihula mnt 3,

90507 Haapsalu, Estonia

Telephone/fax: +372 473 5538

E-mail: info[a]lak.ee

Internet: www.lak.ee

Estonian Unemployment Insurance Fund, Office of Läänemaa

Eesti Töötukassa, Läänemaa osakond

Head of Department: Evelin Kullison

Address: Jaama 13,

90507 Haapsalu, Estonia

Telephone: +372 4 735 517

E-mail: laane[a]tootukassa.ee

Internet: www.tootukassa.ee


Haapsalu Vocational Education Centre

Haapsalu Kutsehariduskeskus

Director: Ingrid Danilov

Address: Ehitajate tee 3,

Uuemõisa 90401, Läänemaa, Estonia

Telephone: +372 666 1740

Fax: +372 666 1750

E-mail: kool[a]hkhk.edu.ee

Internet: www.hkhk.edu.ee

Tallinn University Haapsalu College

Tallinna Ülikooli Haapsalu Kolledž

Director: Triin Laasi 

Address: Lihula road 12,

90507 Haapsalu, Estonia

Telephone: +372 47 20240

Fax: +372 47 20248

E-mail: kolledz[a]hk.tlu.ee

Internet: www.hk.tlu.ee

Other contacts:

Government of Lääne County

Lääne maavalitsus

County Governor: Innar Mäesalu 

Address: Lahe 8,

90503 Haapsalu, Estonia

Telephone: +372 47 25600

Fax: +372 47 25601

E-mail: info[a]lmv.ee

Internet: www.lmv.ee

Haapsalu Town Government

Haapsalu Linnavalitsus

Mayor: Urmas Sukles

Address: Posti 34,

90504 Haapsalu, Estonia

Telephone: +372 472 5300

Mobile: +372 524 7361

Fax: +372 472 5310

E–mail: hlv[a]haapsalulv.ee

Internet: www.haapsalu.ee

Läänemaa Tourism, Infocentre in Haapsalu

Läänemaa Turismi Haapsalu Turismiinfokeskus

Information consultant: Anneli Haabu

Address: Karja 15,

90502 Haapsalu, Estonia

Telephone: +372 473 3248

Fax: +372 473 3248

E-mail: anneli[a]vestest.ee; haapsalu[a]visitestonia.com

Internet: www.westest.ee; www.visitestonia.com

Matsalu Nature Centre

Matsalu Looduskaitseala

Telephone: +372 472 4236

E-mail: matsalu.looduskeskus[a]rmk.ee

Internet: www.matsalu.ee


T allinn University Haapsalu College


Compiled by: Eva Makienko

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