The Crown Prince and Crown Princess in Latvia
It was 100 years ago that the Baltic countries declared their independence. The Crown Prince and Crown Princess are visiting Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia on the occasion of the centennial anniversary, and their visit began today in the Latvian capital, Riga.
The Republic of Latvia was founded when it declared its independence on 18 November 1918. Latvia had been under Russian rule since the early 1700s.
Official welcoming ceremony at Riga Castle
Today His Excellency President Raimonds Vējonis and First Lady Iveta Vējone welcomed Their Royal Highnesses The Crown Prince and Crown Princess to Latvia with a formal ceremony at the Residence of the President of the Republic of Latvia – Riga Castle.
The President and First Lady and the Crown Prince and Crown Princess paid their respects to the two countries’ flags as they listened to both national anthems, and Crown Prince Haakon inspected the Guard of Honour together with President Vējonis.
After the ceremony the two couples had the chance to conduct a conversation tête-à-tête, followed by bilateral meetings between the Norwegian and Latvian delegations.
Flower-laying ceremony at the Freedom Monument
The Freedom Monument has been a gathering place in Riga ever since its unveiling in 1935. During the Soviet occupation, gatherings at the monument were strictly forbidden. Yet people still flocked there to mark the founding of the republic. When Latvia regained independence in 1991, the Guard of Honour once again took its place at the foot of the monument.
Both the President and First Lady and the Crown Prince and Crown Princess laid bouquets at the monument today.
The Crown Prince and Crown Princess and the President and First Lady laid bouquets at Latvia’s Freedom Monument. Photo: Lise Åserud / NTB scanpix
Over 300 Norwegian companies are registered across Latvia, and there is great interest in both countries in mutual business cooperation. Some 10 000 Latvians live in Norway, working primarily in the health care sector and construction industry. Today the Norwegian Ambassador to Latvia, Mr Steinar Hagen, hosted a luncheon for the Latvian-Norwegian Business Forum, with Crown Prince Haakon in attendance.
In his remarks to the business forum, the Crown Prince hearkened back to the long tradition of commerce between Bergen and Riga during the Hanseatic times, and expressed hope that the day would lay the foundation for new trade cooperation between close allies.
"I hope today’s business forum will serve as a platform for translating our common will into new business partnerships."
After the luncheon, the visitors were taken to the National Library of Latvia, the Castle of Light.
The People’s Bookshelf
As the new national library was about to open in 2014, thousands of people formed a human chain and passed more than 2 000 books hand-to-hand from the old national library to the newly built symbol of knowledge. The building’s silhouette recalls the Glass Mountain of Latvian folklore, a symbol of the height of achievement – accomplishments that are not easily attainable but are endlessly rewarding for those who scale the peak.
Inside the building is an atrium with a glass construction called the People’s Bookshelf, to be filled with books from anyone who wishes to donate a book of personal significance. All the delegations that visit Latvia during its centennial celebration donate a book to the Latvian people here. Today was the Crown Prince and Crown Princess’ turn. They chose Maria Parr’s Vaffelhjarte (Waffle Heart) from 2005, a children’s book that has won many awards and has been translated to many languages – including Latvian, with the title Vafeļu sirdis.
UN World Book Day
Today is World Book Day, a day for celebrating books and the positive power of reading. In the children’s reading room, Crown Prince and Crown Princess met with Latvian children and talked with them about the joy of reading. Many of the children had brought their own favourite book and told the Crown Prince and Crown Princess about it. One of the children had brought the Swedish classic Karlsson-on-the-Roof. The Norwegian children’s book Brune by Håkon Øvreås, about a boy named Rune who at night becomes the superhero Brune and fears nothing, was also presented.
The Crown Prince and Crown Princess talking about books with children at the National Library of Latvia. Photo: Lise Åserud / NTB scanpix
The visit to the national library concluded with a meeting with pupils who have chosen to study Nordic languages.
Official dinner at the Residence of the President
Tonight Crown Prince Haakon and Crown Princess Mette-Marit are the guests of the President and First Lady at an official dinner at Riga Castle. The Crown Prince took the opportunity to congratulate Latvia on its century of independence.
"Latvia has a proud history, but Latvians have also known challenging and difficult times. The determination of the Latvian people to achieve independence for their country has been remarkable. It is therefore a special pleasure for me to congratulate you on your Centenary and celebrating 100 years since your declaration of independence. "
Tomorrow the visit continues to the capital of Lithuania, Vilnius.
Facts about Latvia
Largest cities: Riga, Daugavpils, Liepāja
Total area: 64 573 km2 (Norway: 385 186 km2)
Population: approx. 1 939 500
Approx. 62 per cent are Latvians. Russians comprise approx. 26 per cent of the population.
Official language: Latvian
Form of government: Republic
Head of state (2018): President Raimonds Vējonis
Gained independence: 18 November 1918.
His Majesty King Harald carried out a State Visit to Latvia in 1998.
The President of Latvia carried out a State Visit to Norway in 2015 and 2000.
Cooperation between Norway and Latvia extends as far back as the Middle Ages and Hanseatic times. Today over 300 Norwegian companies operate in Latvia, and Norway is the fifth-largest investor in the country.
Relations between Norway and Latvia are good. Representatives from the two countries meet regularly in various forums, both at a political and an official level. Two important multilateral forums are NATO and the EEA.
Source: Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs
- The Baltic countries 2018 (Photo album)
- Luncheon at the Norwegian-Latvian Business Forum (Speech)
- The National Library in Riga (Speech)
- Official dinner in Riga Castle (Speech)
- Official visit to Lithuania (News article)
- Official visit to the Baltic states continues (News article)
- Official visit concluded in Tallinn (News article)
Congratulations are presented today from His Majesty King Harald to His Excellency Mr Egils Levits, President of the Republic of Latvia.
World Heritage at Vega
In 2004, UNESCO inscribed the Vega Archipelago on the World Heritage List. Today His Royal Highness The Crown Prince was in attendance to open the new Vega Archipelago World Heritage Centre – Norway’s first authorised centre of its kind.