On Wednesday 26 March, The King and Queen began a four-day state visit to Latvia, at the invitation of President Andris Bērziņš. They were accompanied by Minister for Foreign Affairs Carl Bildt and a business delegation.
19:30 The first day concluded with a dinner hosted by President Andris Bērziņš. During the dinner, The King gave a speech.
16:00 The King and Queen visited the Swedish Embassy in Riga and were welcomed by Ambassador Henrik Landerholm. After a tour of the embassy, during which The King and Queen greeted embassy employees, a reception was held for Swedes living in Latvia. Some of the students whom The Queen had met in the morning attended.
How involved have you been in the planning for the state visit?
"A great deal of hard work has taken place since December. We have held frequent video conferences with the Royal Court and with the Protocol Department at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs. I've also had a number of meetings with the Presidential Chancery, which is hosting the visit and has of course also been closely involved. There's so much to show in Latvia, so drawing up the programme has involved a lot of effort. How do you show an entire country in just two days?"
Yes, how did you choose what to show?
"We agreed the programme together with the Presidential Chancery, the Royal Court and the Ministry for Foreign Affairs. We wanted to present a broad picture of Latvian society and to show good examples of Swedish-Latvian cooperation. By its very nature, the programme is something of a smörgåsbord. There are elements of business, the environment, culture, social issues and military involvement. And then there are many points that are always included, such as ceremonial elements, the reception here at the embassy and the banquets in the evenings."
How would you describe Latvia?
"This is an impressive, defiant nation. Despite its proximity to Sweden, Latvia is still largely unknown and I hope the state visit will arouse a sense of curiosity about Latvia among Swedes."
15:35 The King and Queen arrived at Latvia's Lutheran-Evangelical congregation's consistory building, and were welcomed by Archbishop Jānis Vanags. This is where Karl XI founded Riga's first upper secondary school for foreign and Latvian students in 1675. Director Andris Vilks then presented the National Library of Latvia. The library's collections feature 4.5 million items, including literature from various subject areas, rare books, audio recordings, maps and pictures.
14:30 The King took part in the Swedish-Latvian Business Forum, which was held at the Radisson Blu Hotel Latvija. After an opening address by Latvia's Minister for Transport Anrijs Matīss and Sweden's Minister for Foreign Affairs Carl Bildt, a panel discussion was held on Swedish-Latvian business cooperation. The discussion dealt with issues such as infrastructure challenges and how Swedish-Latvian cooperation can help to strengthen the competitiveness of the Baltic States.
After the panel discussion, The King and President Andris Bērziņš were given a presentation of the OSCar, the world's first electric off-road rally car. The car was created by the Latvian company OSC in 2003, and has taken part in – and completed – every Dakar Rally since then.
12:50 The King arrived at the Saeima, Latvia's parliament, and was welcomed by Speaker Solvita Āboltiņa. The visit began with lunch.
The Saeima is Latvia's parliament. Latvia has a unicameral system, and the parliament consists of 100 members who are elected through proportional representation. The parties need to win at least five percent of the votes in order to gain a seat in the parliament. The building was originally built for the German nobility in Riga. The current Speaker of the Saeima, Solvita Āboltiņa, has held the position since 2 November 2010
14:25 The Queen arrived at Riga Town Hall and was welcomed by Mayor Nils Ušakovs. A new cooperation agreement between the twin towns of Riga and Norrköping was signed in Riga Town Hall's meeting room, in the presence of The Queen, by Mayor Ušakovs and Eva Andersson, Chair of Norrköping Municipal Executive Board.
Riga and Norrköping have been twin towns since 1988. The 25th anniversary of their twinning was marked in connection with the state visit by signing a new five-year cooperation agreement.
12:50 The Queen and Director Karina Pētersone from the Latvian Institute began a lunch meeting.
The Latvian Institute was founded by the Latvian state in the early 1990s, taking the Swedish Institute as its model. This is a Ministry of Foreign Affairs authority tasked with promoting Latvia by disseminating information about Latvian society, culture and history. Karina Pētersone has been Director of the Latvian Institute since 2011, before which she served as Latvia's Minister of Culture and Minister for Integration Affairs, and as Deputy Speaker of the Saeima.
11:55 The King and Queen visited the Museum of the Occupation of Latvia, where they were welcomed by Vice-Director Vallters Nollendorfs.
Between 1940 and 1991, Latvia was occupied by two different states: during two periods by Soviet Russia (1940-1941 and 1944/45-1991) and in between by Nazi Germany (1941-1944/45). The Museum of the Occupation of Latvia has exhibitions on the theme of living conditions in Latvia during more than fifty years of occupation.
11:40 The King and Queen and the Presidential couple arrived at the Freedom Monument. The King and the President laid a wreath at the memorial.
The Freedom Monument was built in memory of the soldiers killed during the Latvian War of Independence (1918-1920). The 42-metre high monument was dedicated in 1935, and is now a symbol of Latvia's independence and sovereignty, and of the freedom and unity of the people of Latvia.
11:31 The King spoke about the state visit, saying: "The Latvia that welcomes us today is a different country to the one we encountered during our visit here in 1992. The nations surrounding the Baltic Sea are more closely linked than ever before in terms of culture, politics, economics and not least protecting our shared environment. Together, we are working for our joint Baltic region."
11:20 The King and President Andris Bērziņš met the press. The President welcomed those present and emphasised the excellent relations between the two countries. The President mentioned that The King and Queen's state visit to Latvia in 1992 spurred on Latvia's development. Today, Sweden is Latvia's sixth biggest partner, and this partnership encompasses all areas, within education, economics and culture. Their partnership is particularly strong this year, as both Riga and Umeå are European Capitals of Culture.
10:45 The Queen and Mrs Dace Seisuma visited the Latvian National Opera where they were welcome by Director Zigmars Liepiņš.
The Latvian National Opera House, built in 1863 as Riga's German theatre, is home to both the Latvian National Opera and the Latvian National Ballet. The opera company was founded in 1912. The ballet company was founded in 1918 at around the same time as Latvia's declaration of independence on 18 November 1918. Extensive renovation work began in 1990, and the original style of the building has largely been preserved. Mikhail Baryshnikov is one of the prominent ballet dancers to have been a member of the ballet company at the Latvian National Opera.
10:40 A meeting between the heads of state and the delegations began in the Latvian Hall. The participants included Swedish Minister for Foreign Affairs Carl Bildt, Latvian Minister for Foreign Affairs Edgars Rinkēvičs and Latvian Minister for Economics Vjačeslavs Dombrovskis.
10:20 The King and Queen had a private meeting with President Andris Bērziņš and Mrs Dace Seisuma.
10:00 The King and Queen arrived at the House of the Blackheads, the official residence of the President. The Latvian and Swedish national anthems were played. The King and President Andris Bērziņš inspected the troops.
The House of the Blackheads is situated in Old Riga, and was originally built in the 14th century. At that time, it was known as the New House. The building was taken over during the 17th century by German merchants, who gave the building its current name. The House of the Blackheads has served as the temporary official residence of the President since a major fire at Riga Castle in June 2013.