It has been a year and a half now since I took up my post as the British Ambassador in Argentina and I am pleased with the progress we have made in the relationship between our two countries and in developing a more open approach towards different sectors of Argentine society. And we will build on these foundations further in 2018: a year that will place Argentina in the international spotlight and will give both our countries plenty of opportunities to work together under the framework of the G20 and, hopefully, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).
The British Embassy is working to raise the UK’s profile in Argentina. We have a favourable landscape: our efforts to became a truly “Global Britain,” a country that reaches beyond the borders of Europe; the Argentine government’s efforts to open up to the world; international summits that have already been hosted or are about to be hosted by this country; and the interests we share in different political, social and economic areas. The new stage in our bilateral relationship and the different international summits being held in Argentina are enabling us to welcome an unprecedented number of visiting British Government ministers and officials.
But progress in the bilateral relationship is not just limited to official visits, and we have many examples to prove it. Low-cost flights between London and Buenos Aires are about to start this month; we have selected a record number of Argentine students to pursue studies at British universities under the Chevening Scholarships Programme; we have opened the doors of our Residence for many events and visitors, presenting this beautiful building that turned 100 years old just a few months ago. Most recently, we hosted over 2,000 Harry Potter fans in a colourful and magical event that promotes reading among children and young adults. This week, I attended the première of Paddington 2, a feel good film about the most famous bear in London. It is based on the importance of family, a value which very much resonated with the audience in Argentina.
The empathy that has developed between our countries is what led to the success of one of the humanitarian projects that has given us the greatest amount of pride: the identification by DNA testing of 88 Argentine soldiers buried at Darwin Cemetery. Argentina, the UK and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) joined together in an effort to help provide a little comfort for the families of the soldiers, which will now know more precisely where the remains of their loved ones lie. It also bore testimony to the dedicated effort of Colonel Geoffrey Cardozo in creating the Darwin Cemetery. In addition, the efforts in the search for the ARA San Juan submarine opened the door to an unprecedented level of cooperation between the Argentine and British Armed Forces. The tragedy touched everybody’s hearts and both the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force immediately offered to collaborate with the Argentine Navy in the search and rescue operations.
As an essential part of our shared heritage, we continue to strengthen our links with the community in Argentina of British descent. One of the most moving moments of the past year was when we paid tribute at the Embassy to the Argentine volunteers who fought together with British forces during World War II. And the Argentine-British Community Council (ABCC) is always a valuable partner for events like Harry Potter Book Night, the Opera Night and the many other events through which they raise funds for charity work. At the end of last year, we received the wonderful news that former ABCC chairman John Hunter had been awarded the British Empire Medal (BEM) by the Queen in the New Year’s Honours list.
This year will be an even busier one because Argentina will hold the G20 presidency and the eyes of the world – and the UK’s in particular – will be focused on this beautiful country (except for between June and July, of course, when both English and Argentine people will have our hearts in faraway Russia, following our national teams in the World Cup!). So, 2018 will bring with it excellent opportunities to strengthen bilateral ties and to continue to work together, in a spirit of innovation, freedom and democracy.