British Ambassador first official trip to Algarve

Last week Jill Gallard made a whistle-stop tour of the Algarve in what was her first visit to the region in her official capacity as the British Ambassador to Portugal. During the overnight stay Ms. Gallard met with several Portuguese and foreign associations as well as spearheading a consular ‘Outreach’ event held in Albufeira.

British Embassador in AlgarveArriving in the Algarve last Wednesday morning Ms. Gallard paid visits to organisations including the region’s largest tourism association AHETA, the Royal British Legion and the GNR, before rounding off the day with a networking dinner hosted by the British-Portuguese Chamber of Commerce.

On Thursday she attended a consular ‘Outreach’ event, held at the Vila Galé Cerro Alagoa Hotel in Albufeira.

Organised by the Algarve British Consulate, Ms. Gallard was joined at the event by British Consul to the Algarve, Clive Jewell, and Honorary British Consul to Faro, Dr. Miguel Sengo da Costa, and the consular team.

Guest speakers included Geoffrey Graham from Anglo-Portuguese law firm Neville de Rougement, who gave advice on the importance of making a will as a British resident in Portugal, and David Thomas, founder and director of the Algarve based security business ISECA.

Some 50 people attended the event, aimed at offering information and support to British nationals resident in Portugal. It is estimated that there are currently between 70,000 and 80,000 Britons resident in Portugal, a country visited by approximately 1.6 million British nationals every year.

During her opening speech Ms. Gallard gave a brief summary of her career prior to being appointed British Ambassador to Portugal, which has included a five-year stint in Madrid and a three-year spell in the Czech Republic, “just as it was joining the EU.”

Starting proceedings on a lighter note, the Ambassador revealed that during her time in the Czech Republic she learned to speak Czech; “Which has made learning Portuguese a joy”, she joked.

Having taken up the position in Portugal in July this year, Ms. Gallard said she made the most of the fact the new government had taken office just a few weeks earlier and was working through the summer.

“That has been a big advantage for me”, she explained, given that working through the traditionally quieter months of July and August, when most of her counterparts would be on holiday, afforded “fast and easy access” to the new ministers.

She also touched on the “interesting bilateral relations” between Portugal and the UK, noting the countries’ shared similarities, such as their new centre-right coalition governments “with Prime Ministers who have never been a Minister in Government before and are both relatively young to be Prime Minister.”

“So we’ve got a lot in common on the government side”, she reflected.

When the UK’s new government took over last year, Foreign Secretary William Hague set out three priorities for the Foreign Office, boiled down from eight, these being ‘Security, Prosperity and Consulate’.

“In Portugal we’ve gone very much with the second and third”, Ms. Gallard said, acknowledging Portugal’s shared priorities with the UK regarding international security.

Delving into the Foreign Office’s second priority, Prosperity, Ms. Gallard elaborated on the opportunities offered to the UK by Portugal’s historic ties with countries such as Angola and Brazil, stressing the importance of being able to access these markets. She also gave an interesting insight as to the role of the Ambassador’s residence in strengthening economic relationships and boosting trade.

“During my second week we had fifteen Chief Executive Officers of the top banks of Portugal come to the residence for dinner along with a British Management Consultancy Company that was trying to get a contract, and they got the contract, which is worth seven figures.”

Historically Portugal and the UK share the oldest alliance in the world as well as a 25-year partnership in the EU. Traditionally the two countries have enjoyed good relations all round, and appear to continue to do so. Testimony to this was an hour-and-a-half-long lunch meeting held in London earlier this month by Portugal’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Paulo Portas and William Hague.

“What struck me about that meeting was that they really didn’t talk that much about relations between the UK and Portugal because they agreed early on in the meeting that our relations are very good, there were no major problems. What they spent their time talking about was the Middle East, wider foreign policy issues, the economic situation in the world and the Eurozone. And I was quite pleased that they felt they didn’t need to talk about UK-Portuguese relations”, said the Ambassador.

Ms. Gallard rounded off her introductory speech by stressing that 2012 looks set to be a big year for the UK.

During the course of next year the Queen will celebrate her Diamond Jubilee and the London Olympics will take place, which are seen by the UK as a chance for the country to make its mark, as well as being “the best opportunity in years to boost trade.”


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