BEIRUT: British Ambassador to Lebanon Tom Fletcher launched Friday the first GREAT Britain week, which will emphasize cultural and trade links between the two countries, and stressed that in the face of regional instability, “we need to work with what’s best in Lebanon, rather than be frightened of what might be worst.” From June 12-17, around 50 British-themed events will take place in and around the capital.
“In the summer of the London Olympics, the greatest show on earth, in the summer of the queen’s 60th Jubilee ... we want to show you why we are so passionate about our country,” Fletcher told a news conference at Zeitunay Bay in Downtown Beirut.
The week will also mark the return of the London to Beirut route on British Airways with the first flight to arrive carrying a delegation of businesspeople and journalists from the U.K.
“Also we want to showcase great Lebanon to the British people,” Fletcher said. “We want to show the new Lebanon – the Lebanon which is hopeful, optimistic, talented and above all, resilient.”
The U.K. and Lebanon, he added, both coastal countries, share one common trait,:that of excelling when looking outside of their borders.
“We are at our best when we are looking outward, when we are voyaging, adventuring, when we are trading, when we are pioneering, when we’re dreaming. That’s the spirit of our partnership and the spirit of GREAT Britain week,” the ambassador said.
It is this image of Lebanon as a resilient nation, and an attractive investment base, that the embassy is hoping to promote, showcasing the country to British financiers and tourists alike.
Lebanon, Fletcher said, is emerging from a difficult period and the embassy is keen to help correct some false preconceptions of the country. “We want to show that this is not the Lebanon of the past, but it’s actually a very forward-looking Lebanon,” he added.
Fletcher highlighted that, “We could have gone to Doha, to Cairo or to Riyadh, but we’re doing it here in Beirut, as Beirut should take its rightful place at the center of this region again. Not the country that has things done to it but the country that leads the region.”
In terms of trade partnerships, Fletcher said the week was also about increasing business links between the two countries. More Jaguars and Bentleys are sold per capita in Lebanon than anywhere else in the world and Fletcher said that the aim was to increase overall trade between the two countries by 20 percent over the next year.
“It’s a cliché but when times have been toughest in Lebanon people bounce back pretty quickly ... In a way we’re taking on some of that spirit and saying that we’re not just going to lock ourselves away, we’re going to ... promote the best things about Lebanon, and not focus on the worst,” he said.
Events held during the week include traditional Scottish music parades, screenings of British films, the launch of a limited edition beer from Lebanese microbrewery 961, an exhibition of vintage British cars and fashion shows.
A full program is available at http://ukinlebanon.fco.gov.uk/resources/en/pdf/771277582/timeout-calender and in Time Out Beirut magazine.