Charles and Camilla to begin tour of Balkans


The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall will start a royal tour of the Balkans today.

Charles and Camilla are set to visit Croatia, Kosovo, Montenegro and Serbia on behalf of the British Government, with their trip ending on March 19.

Charles is a frequent visitor to the region, having first travelled to the Balkans in 1978, before the four countries became independent following the break-up of Yugoslavia - which led to a number of bitter conflicts.

During their visit to the region, the royal couple will see evidence of the fighting in the damage to buildings, and in Serbia the heir to the throne will give a speech on the theme of reconciliation.

The region has seen a huge influx of refugees from Syria, now mainly confined to the borders, but the royal visit will not see Charles meeting those fleeing war, as he has done on recent trips to Jordan.

The Duchess will carry out a number of events highlighting the work of those combating sexual violence, an issue she has championed for a number of years, while the Prince will also focus on a key issue he has supported, inter-faith dialogue.

Highlights of the trip will see the Prince view a revered icon of the Virgin Mary, Our Lady of Philermos in Montenegro and in Serbia he will meet addicts going through a monastery's rehabilitation programme.

Camilla will visit a family care project in Serbia, supported by both Unicef and the foundation of the world's number one tennis player Novak Djokovic.

The royal couple's flights will be made by a private chartered plane.

Speaking before the visit, Ian Cliff, the British Ambassador to Croatia, said the visit was an opportunity for Charles to see how things had developed since his last visit in 1996.

He said there was "incredible" excitement in the country over the visit, adding: "Somehow, for some bizarre reason I still don't fully understand, getting a Royal visit from the UK is even more of a seal of approval than getting a visit from the United States president - certainly for countries in this region."

He continued: "It is a renewal of contact at this particular Royal level, between Britain and Croatia, after a gap of 20 years."

This first day of the trip will feature the royal couple receiving a ceremonial welcome at the president's palace and visiting the Croatian National Theatre.