The Leader were amongst a select group of journalists invited to a reception in Benidorm with Her Majesty’s Ambassador to Spain, Simon Manley CMG, when, just three weeks into his new role, he embarked on a tour of ex-pat rich areas of Spain to get a real feel for the people he will be looking after.
A member of the UK’s Diplomatic Service since 1990, Manley is extremely experienced, despite his relatively young age for a diplomat, and began by explaining how his knowledge and experience is already proving vital when it comes to meeting the needs of British tourists and residents in Spain, especially those who are more vulnerable.
Accompanied by the British Consul from Alicante, Paul Rodwell, the Ambassador explained how spain is one of the most valuable countries in the world when it comes to relationships with the UK, with “some 400 Spanish companies registered in the UK”, and “British companies exporting 9.7 billion euro worth of goods and service to Spain, making it the UK’s eighth largest export market”, and “more than 13 million Britons visiting spain each year, plus 800,000 making the country their home, generating 1% of Spain´s GDP”.
As the Spanish coastline provides one of the most tourist rich areas of the country, including the Costa Blanca and the Andalucía coastline where Manly had been earlier in the week, the importance of representing those tourists is not only vital, but self evident. In fact, the British Consul in Barcelona, Manley Explained, is the busiest in the entire network around the globe.
The Ambassador continued to explain that whilst visiting Málaga, Barcelona, Alicante and Benidorm, he has been visiting numerous charity groups, local authorities, hospitals and with diplomats from the Spanish cities, looking at the areas of expertise where support is provided to British people whilst in Spain.
At the same time, his team has been looking at improving methods of communication and making the most of new technology to pass important advice to both travelers and foreign residents on other countries.
In fact, this week has seen the launch of two new methods for the dissemination of information, using two of the most popular social networks in use at the moment. On Facebook, a new page has been created called “Brits living in Spain”, whereas Twitter users should follow @BritsliveSpain, for which the Ambassador said, “apologies for the grammar”, but the important fact is that the two new channels are able to provide information to a large number of people in one go.
When asked if the immediacy of Facebook and Twitter is a valuable element, Manly responded in a positive, explaining how during the Boston Marathon terrorist attack, information was being quickly fed both from the scene and to those affected by the incident, in real time, to make sure that everybody was aware of what was happening quickly, but with the minimum of effort. Manly was previously the FCO’s head of Counter-Terrorism Policy from 2006 to 2008, before becoming the Director Defence and Strategic Threats from 2008 to 2011.
With more people using Facebook and Twitter than ever before, both young and old, it is important that as many people as possible “like” and “follow” these official channels, as the more who do, the richer the experience and flow of information will be, Manly explained.
Part of the information availability and flow is important for those looking to visit a foreign country or live abroad, but it is more important for travellers to be prepared themselves, whether that be “making sure you have travel insurance, making sure the cover is adequate for your trip, a policy might seem cheap, but will it cover you in the event of an incident?”, Manly explained, “Signing on the padrón is important, learning a bit of Spanish”, he continued, in fact, when faced with potential problems, although it might be instinctive to assume the diplomatic service will help, “the solutions lie in your own hands”.
Paul Rodwell, the British Consul in Alicante, who has himself been to a property show In Birmingham recently to promote the values of Spain, explained that often when major problems occur, there is little that the diplomatic services can actually do. “We know that there are many people who have been on a ten year holiday”, but when the Spanish administrations then find it difficult to help an individual who is not registered on their system, similarly, it is extremely difficult for the UK authorities to act too.
In fact, both the Ambassador and the Consul were consistent in their message, that when moving to or planning to live in Spain, not only is your own research important before you take the plunge, once here, the first contact should always be your local town hall. Building a relationship with the town hall is important, as is getting registered on the padrón, at the very least, to ensure that you are entitled to services that are available for free in Spain, such as health and welfare, before any risk of a problem occurs. As Rodwell explained, “being in limbo is not cool”.
Despite a range of problems highlighted in a variety of newspapers and TV shows, spain offer a “wonderful” opportunity for retirement, or a “wonderful” holiday, but do your own checks and get registered is the message.
Although still new to the job, the Ambassador said that he himself has been impressed by the warmth in which he has been welcomed, as well as the keenness of those he has met to develop, and, although “every day is different, he concluded that for him, already, “It´s a great job”.
Filed under: http://www.theleader.info/article/41636/