TALLINN - President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, Rene van der Linden, has begun an official tour of the Baltic states.
The visit will take in all three Baltic countries from 18 to 24 September, during which he "intends to discuss the broader role of the Council of Europe in promoting the common values of human rights and democracy, avoiding the creation of new dividing lines in Europe, inter-cultural and interreligious dialogue and minority questions," according to a PACE release.
He will be in Estonia from 18 to 20 September, Latvia from 20 to 22 September and Lithuania from 22 to 24 September.
Mr van der Linden is due to meet leading members of the government in all three countries, including Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves, Latvian Prime Minister Aigars Kalvitis and Lithuanian Prime Minister Gediminas Kirkilas, as well as the heads of all three national parliaments, local government authorities, representatives of minority groups and students.
Inevitably, much attention will focus on how van der Linden addresses the concerns of ethnic Russians, particularly in Estonia.
He will also meet Metropolitan Alexander from the Orthodox church and in Vilnius, Archbishop Audrys Juozas Backis.