BRITAIN'S new Ambassador to Spain, Denise Holt CMG, said yesterday that the Balearics, with its 60'000 British residents and three million visitors every year, is going to be one of her main priorities.
Holt, who was Ambassador to Mexico between 2002 and 2005 and therefore speaks fluent Spanish, is currently on a fact-finding mission to the Balearics - her first official engagement outside Madrid since taking over at the Embassy just two weeks ago.
Yesterday, the Ambassador flew into Majorca ahead of meetings with the central government delegate to the Balearics, Ramon Socias, and the acting Minister for Tourism Joan Flaquer.
Emerging from their meeting, both Socias and Holt spoke of the excellent relationship between Spain and the United Kingdom, in particular the one shared by the police and security forces whose close co-operation has led to a number of extremely important drug seizures over the past year.
Holt, accompanied by the British Consul Paul Abrey and Vice-Consul Esteban Mas, was also keen to ease concerns amongst some Spanish journalists about the negative affect this week's announcement by the Basque terrorist group ETA that it is calling off its ceasefire, may have on the British tourist market.
The Ambassador explained that, as is routine, the Foreign Office's website (fco.gov.uk) has updated its advice to travellers coming to Spain so that they are aware of developments but she categorically denied that Spain is on the list of dangerous destinations. She expressed the British government's full confidence in the Spanish security services providing the maximum security and protection to British citizens. Spain is by no means considered a dangerous destination in Britain. Some 16 million Britons visit Spain every year, around one million live here, and they are all very content. Spain is a perfectly normal country where a large number of Britons have decided to live, start a family, educate their children and plan their future, the Ambassador said.
And it is some of those Britons who have set up home in Spain, in particular Majorca, whom Holt is looking forward to meeting and talking to this evening at the Queen's Birthday Party which is being held at San Carlos castle in Palma.
I am keen to meet key British members of the Majorcan community, listen to their worries and concerns and help them celebrate the British community's contribution to life in Majorca, the Ambassador said.
I get the impression that, on the whole, the British are very happy in Majorca, she added.
However, the Ambassador learnt yesterday that there is growing concern about the behaviour of young British holidaymakers and the annual tragedies caused by Britons falling from hotel and apartment block balconies.
Holt said yesterday that the British government is aware of the situation and one of the primary roles of the Know Before You Go website is to advise young Britons how to behave on holiday and how to avoid such accidents from happening but we're dealing with 18-year-olds and when the weather is good, they don't always remember the advice they've been given, she added. Drugs and alcohol are often the cocktail behind the balcony leap phenomenon. During her meeting with the acting Minister for Tourism Joan Flaquer, she praised the Balearic government's decision yesterday to close three night clubs, for periods of between four days and two months, in Ibiza as part of new measures to crackdown on and minimise drug use and abuse on the island. Holt said that if the government has to resort to taking such steps in order to combat drugs then so be it.
Many of the privileged guests invited to tonight's Queen's Birthday Party will not only get the chance to meet Britain's new Ambassador, they will also meet the first woman to represent the United Kingdom in Spain.
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