President Mary McAleese is in Latvia at the start of a state visit.

Later in the week she will make a state visit to neighbouring Lithuania.

The visits will highlight the growing political, cultural and economic ties between the two Baltic states and Ireland.

Both Latvia and Lithuania joined the European Union in May 2004 at an enlargement ceremony hosted by President McAleese at Áras an Uachtaráin.

The first head of state she met on that occasion was Vaira Vike-Freiberga of Latvia, and today it will be her turn to welcome the Irish President at a formal ceremony in Riga castle, which will be broadcast live by Latvian television.

There are an estimated 15,000 Latvians living and working in Ireland, from a country of just over two million people.

The growing and deepening ties between the two countries will be emphasised during the president's visit.

Enterprise Ireland has also organised a trade delegation of Irish businesses to coincide with the president’s trip to what is now Europe's fastest growing economy.