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The Diplomatic Dispatch

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Posts Tagged ‘Diamond Jubilee’

2012: 12 Highlights

Wednesday, December 19th, 2012

This is my last blog of the year. Many thanks to all of you for taking the time to read my ramblings. Herewith twelve personal highlights from a fascinating, fun and fast-moving year in Sweden:

  • January saw the first of many Ministerial visits this year. Lord Green, our Business Minister came for a big meeting on smart grids and renewable energy, one of many trade and investment sectors linking the UK and Sweden;
  • February involved a two-day visit by Prime Minister David Cameron, here to attend the second Northern Future Forum, bringing together PMs and policy experts from the UK and the Nordic-Baltic countries, this year looking at the challenges and opportunities of an ageing society and how to get more women into the workforce.
  • March was a particular highlight, with Their Royal Highnesses The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall, spending three days in and around Stockholm, looking at social integration, education, architecture, climate change, renewable energy and sustainable agriculture.  All areas where our governments, businesses and societies are working together.
  • April saw me in Gothenburg for a great event with British and Swedish business leaders and sportspeople marking 100 days to go the London Olympics.
  • May’s highlight was my first visit to Malmö, an opportunity to meet local politicians, journalists and business people and to talk to students at the university of Lund about the UK and Europe.
  • In June, we hosted two big receptions, one in partnership with the BBC and one with Brunswick, to mark The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, including a concert of English music from across the centuries. And it was a privilege to attend the centenary events for the Stockholm 1912 Olympics and to receive Stockholm’s good wishes for the London games.
  • July meant Almedalen and several days of sunshine and seminars in the glorious surroundings of Visby.
  • August included a lovely week’s break in Sandhamn, enjoying the splendours of the archipelago.
  • September was visits season again, with the Head of the UK Civil Service coming to Stockholm to see how an Embassy works. Happily, he went away impressed!
  • October saw two more excellent visits, by our Europe Minister, David Lidington and the Chief of the UK Defence Staff, Sir David Richards, talking respectively about the prosperity and security interests the UK and Sweden have in common.
  • November saw England’s footballers given the honour of inaugurating the new Friends Arena and of being spectators to an amazing display by Zlatan!
  • December saw a British winner! Sir John Gurdon received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his ground-breaking research on reprogramming of cells. Work begun 50 years ago, which has led to stem cell research and the promise of cures which will benefit our grandchildren’s generation. A forward-looking and cheerful note on which to end. Every best wish for a peaceful Christmas and prosperous New Year!

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Some day my prince will come…

Wednesday, March 21st, 2012

This week, as it happens! The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall are paying their first official visit to Sweden on 22-24 March.

It’s part of a week-long Nordic tour, embracing Norway and Denmark.

Here in Stockholm, they arrive on Thursday at lunchtime and are greeted at Arlanda by Prince Carl Philip. There they also meet Swedish air force personnel and inspect a Gripen plane, as well as meeting representatives of its maker, Saab, and of the UK company, Selex Galileo, which makes some of its high-tech equipment systems.

I see this engagement as an opportunity to thank Sweden for the important role it played in the NATO-led Libya operation and to mark UK-Sweden defence industrial co-operation.

Their Royal Highnesses, accompanied by the Queen and Prime Minister Reinfeldt, then visit Fryshuset, to meet and talk to young people and to the centre’s leaders about the great work it does in tackling gang violence and other social problems and in promoting integration, all themes close to the heart of the British and Swedish governments and Royal Families.

My wife and I are hosting a reception that evening, for the Prince and Duchess to meet members of the UK community in Sweden, particularly those involved in community service and volunteering, which are themes of The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations.

On Friday, Queen Silvia and the Duchess visit the British International Primary School and a Swedish pre-school. The King and Prince Charles visit the Stockholm Resilience Centre, to discuss climate change and the challenges facing the planet, and then they go to St Erik’s housing development to see a leading example of community-centric urban architecture. Both of these themes, the global environment and the built environment, are of course dear to Prince Charles’ heart. As is renewable energy, and I will be hosting a meeting for him to meet leading Swedish players in the biomass sector.

On Saturday, Their Majesties accompany Their Royal Highnesses to the Vasa, without which no trip to Stockholm would be complete! There will be a brief walkabout near the Vasa Museum, around 11.00 on Saturday, which would be the best occasion to catch a glimpse of our Royal visitors. They complete their 48 hours in Sweden with a visit to Saltå Kvarn to see an organically based mill and bakery in operation.

The themes the visit covers reflect the challenges of modern societies – sustainable growth, energy and agriculture, education, international security and integration – that the UK and Sweden are tackling together.

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Queen of Diamonds

Tuesday, February 7th, 2012

You know what they say about London buses: you wait ages for one then two come at once. So it is with blogs.

This week (6 February, in fact) marks an historic day for Britain. 60 years ago, a young Princess became Queen.

It was a Britain very different from today. Still a colonial power in much of the world. Still recovering from the horrors of the Second World War. There was one, black and white, TV channel.  Space travel was the stuff of comic books. Truman and Churchill presided in Washington and London. De Gaulle was in internal exile in France.

It’s extraordinary to think about how Britain and the world have changed since our Queen came to the Throne. This year she celebrates her Diamond Jubilee. Sixty years on the throne. An amazing achievement.

I had the privilege of meeting her almost exactly a year ago. She was as intelligent, engaged, interesting and interested as everyone who has met her says she is.  She is an amazing example of duty, discretion and devotion.

I was asked by a Swedish politician recently why Britain loved its monarchy so much. I said my own personal view was that it was partly that everyone loves a family story, with new generations sustaining interest.

Also that people respect the lifetime of service The Queen has given to Britain and the Commonwealth.

It’s also I think something romantic. In a world of business plans and business problems, of jargon and job cuts, there’s something attractive in an institution that represents different traditions and values.

But it’s an institution that exists by being close to people, which, day in day out, supports British business, communities, ideas and events.

Today, like every day, The Queen and her family will be out in the community, visiting schools, hospitals, factories, farms. Hundreds of visits, every year for sixty years.

May there be many more to come! God Save the Queen!

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