January 25, 2006

RIGA (Reuters) – The Queen will visit the three Baltic states of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia in October, her first trip to the region, Buckingham Palace announced on Wednesday.The Queen, who will be accompanied by her husband the Duke of Edinburgh, was invited by the presidents of all three former Soviet states.

The Baltic states gained independence from Russia in 1991 and joined the European Union and NATO in 2004. They have attracted many high-level visits including that of President George W Bush who came to Latvia in 2005.

Britain’s ambassador to Latvia, Ian Bond, said the forthcoming royal visit reflected the growing cultural and business links between Britain and the Baltic states, which have some of Europe’s fastest-growing economies.”This visit will give a tremendous boost to the profile of Britain in the region and will cement the growing links with more and more Brits coming here and many people going from the Baltics to Britain,” he said.While this will be the first trip by the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh to the Baltics, they have been to Eastern Europe and Russia previously. They visited Hungary in 1993, Russia in 1994 and Poland and the Czech Republic in 1996.Prince Charles was attacked during a tour of the Baltics in November 2001.He was slapped across the face with some red carnations in the Latvian capital of Riga by a teenage schoolgirl who said she was making a personal protest at Britain’s military presence in Afghanistan.