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Visa free Baltics

U.S. President George W. Bush has invited the three Baltic States to join in a visa-free regime with the United States. Bush said on Oct. 17 that a total of seven countries would no longer need a visa to travel to the U.S.: Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia and South Korea. "I am thankful that both parties have supported the initiative at the Congress to adopt the law that would allow joining of new countries to the visa free program... I am thankful to the representatives of the US and our allies, who have worked hard to conclude these agreements and to fulfill the new requirements," Bush said. "Today's announcement means that a new chapter between the U.S. and these countries has been opened, proving our close friendship ties.

It is an important achievement," he said. The road to a visa free regime has been a long and difficult one for the Baltic States. For years the three countries have been close to meeting the requirements, but could not seem to achieve less than a 10 percent refusal rate until earlier this year. The lifting of the visa requirement, which will probably come into effect in mid-November, would allow tourists and other visitors easy access to the United States. A recent study has found that Lithuania is the most media savvy Baltic State.

The research, which was carried out by East West Global Index 200, gave Lithuania 68th place of 200 with regards to how the country is described in international media – well ahead of Estonia's 137th place and Latvia's 139th. Laurynas Bucalis, head of the Lithuanian government's Communications Department, said that the country has become more interesting for foreign media. "We expect even better positions of our country in the future, because the frequent and positive mentioning of Lithuania in international community is one of the key factors in strategic goals of forming Lithuania"s image," Bucalis told the ELTA news agency.

The index tracked 5 million mentions of countries and territories in 38 leading media sources.