News / Europe

Britain Shakes Up Its Foreign Service

Britain's Foreign Secretary William Hague (file photo)
Britain's Foreign Secretary William Hague (file photo)

Britain’s foreign secretary announced a major shake-up of the country’s Foreign Service on Wednesday.  William Hague told politicians that greater ties will be built across Asia and Latin America - a reflection, he said, of a changing balance of power in the world.  

Speaking to British politicians in parliament on Wednesday, Hague outlined the changes.

“We will significantly increase our presence in India and China, the world's two emerging superpowers," said Hague.

He said 50 diplomats will be deployed to China and 30 to India.

Britain will also be sending new ambassadors to Kyrgyzstan and South Sudan and reopening its posts in Madagascar and El Salvador.  When security permits, an embassy is also set to open in Somalia.  

Hague said diplomats will help build business relations.

“There is not and will never be any substitute for a strong British diplomatic service that advances the interest of the United Kingdom," he said. "We can never rely on anyone else to do that.”

Mark Wickham-Jones is an expert in politics at Britain’s University of Bristol.  

He says the move is part of an overall shift in Britain away from its ties to Europe.  The new focus, he says, is primarily economic.  

"Historically, British diplomacy has been very oriented towards Europe, certainly in the last 30 years with the decline of the Commonwealth," said Wickham-Jones. "I think this reflects a shift towards new markets and a shift away from the cultural and towards the economic."

Wickham-Jones says diplomats can be a useful tool for building business relations in emerging markets.  But, he says, only time will tell whether the shift will bring home the money.

"We all know about the dramatic rates of growth in China," he said. "We all know about the emerging middle class in India, and you could see a role for diplomats in sort of fostering links for those countries, facilitating business.  But you're not going to see any dividends immediately."

Foreign Secretary Hague said Britain will maintain its links to Brussels, Geneva and the U.S.

But he said the foreign office has to plan ahead and build the right relations for the future.

Christian Schweiger is an international relations expert at Britain’s Durham University.

He says Britain is not the only country working to build new foreign relations.

"If you look at the areas where it opens, I mean it's South America, it is the former Soviet Union," said Schweiger. "Then you have the Mediterranean, Africa and the Middle East.  These are obviously areas where all countries and all global powers, if you look at China or America, have interests."

And he says new ties would not be good news just for Britain.  He says the countries that are to receive more British diplomats and new embassies will likely view the move as a boon to their own status.

"They will say, Britain is taking us more seriously, Britain wants a presence here," he said. "So from their perspective, it will be definitely welcome.  The question is, will this be accompanied by any other measures.  For example, any direct development aid, any sort of financial, economic, infrastructural support - that remains to be seen."

Schweiger says it is notable that Britain is setting out to build new diplomatic ties on its own rather than as part of the wider European Union.  He says it is a further step in an ongoing move by Britain’s current government to distance itself from Europe.

You May Like

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

There is growing uncertainty over whether West’s response to ISIS is adequate More

China Crackdown on Dual Citizens Causes Concern

New policy encourages reporting people who obtain citizenship in another country, but retain Chinese citizenship; move spurs sharp debate More

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

Losing ground to Islamic State fighters, Syria's government says it is ready to cooperate with international community More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?i
X
Henry Ridgwell
August 29, 2014 12:26 AM
U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Pachyderms Play Polo to Raise Money for Elephants

Polo, the ancient team competition typically played on horseback, is known as the “sport of kings.” However, the royal version for one annual event in Thailand swaps the horse for the kingdom’s national symbol - the elephant. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Samut Prakan reports that the King’s Cup Elephant Polo tournament is all for a good cause.
Video

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

The United States along with European and Mideast allies are considering a broader assault against Islamic State fighters who have spread from Syria into Iraq and risk further destabilizing an already troubled region. But as VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, confronting those militants could end up helping the embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Video

Video Made in America Socks Get Toehold in Online Fashion Market

Three young entrepreneurs are hoping to revolutionize the high-end sock industry by introducing all-American creations of their own. And they’re doing most of it the old-fashioned way. VOA’s Julie Taboh recently caught up with them to learn what goes into making their one-of-a-kind socks.
Video

Video Americans, Ex-Pats Send Relief Supplies to West Africa

Health organizations from around the world are sending supplies and specialists to the West African countries that are dealing with the worst Ebola outbreak in history. On a smaller scale, ordinary Americans and African expatriates living in the United States are doing the same. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video America's Most Popular Artworks Displayed in Public Places

Public places in cities across America were turned into open-air art galleries in August. Pictures of the nation’s most popular artworks were displayed on billboards, bus shelters, subway platforms and more. The idea behind “Art Everywhere,” a collaborative campaign by five major museums is to allow more people to enjoy art and learn about the country’s culture and history. Faiza Elmasry has more.
Video

Video Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implant

A Chinese boy suffering from a debilitating bone disease has become the first patient with a part of his spine created in a three-dimensional printer. Doctors say he will soon regain normal mobility. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Uneasy Calm Settles Over Israel, Gaza Strip

Israel and the Gaza Strip have been calm since a cease-fire set in Tuesday evening, ending seven weeks of hostilities. Hamas, which controls Gaza, declared victory. Israelis were more wart. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jerusalem.
Video

Video India’s Leprosy Battle Stymied by Continuing Stigma

Medical advancements in the treatment of leprosy have greatly diminished its impact around the world, largely eliminating the disease from most countries. India made great strides in combating leprosy, but still accounts for a majority of the world’s new cases each year, and the number of newly infected Indians is rising - more than 130,000 recorded last year. Doctors there say the problem has more to do with society than science. Shaikh Azizur Rahman reports from Kolkata.
Video

Video Scientists Unlock Mystery of Bird Flocks

How can flocks of birds, schools of fish or herds of antelope suddenly change direction -- all the individuals adjusting their movement in concert, at seemingly the same time? British researchers now have some insights into this behavior, which has puzzled scientists for a long time. VOA's George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid