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Sophie Honey
Sophie Honey took up post as British Ambassador to Slovenia on 12 March 2015. Foto: gov.uk

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The #212challenge

Sophie Honey
12. February 2017 ob 17:38
Ljubljana - MMC RTV SLO

A few weeks ago UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson came to Slovenia to help us celebrate 25 years of diplomatic relations. Now Ambassadors are meant to know when Ministers have been to their host country before. And I did know that Boris Johnson's Dad is a fond visitor to Bled and friend of Mayor Fajfar. But I didn't know, until he told me in the car, the story of how the younger Mr Johnson came to Ljubljana in December 1991, as a journalist accompanying Van Den Broek and the EU Troika. His overriding feeling - how wrong it would have been to thwart Slovenia's independence then and how great it was to visit independent Slovenia 25 years on as a friend and partner - reverberated throughout the visit.

After the meetings the Foreign Secretary and Minister Erjavec joined Embassy friends and contacts at the fabulous National Gallery for, well, a party to celebrate what has gone and what is coming up. We watched a short film with great stories from Brits and Slovenes (including the lovely Heather Pirjevec who managed to confuse parmesan and Partisans in her local deli). And getting serious FS Johnson stressed for those present: "I have one message for you tonight, which is we in the UK want to intensify our partnership with you". And actually that was the tenor of the whole visit and of the British Embassy's work here in Slovenia looking ahead.

As part of this, the Embassy team and I have just embarked on a challenge: to visit every one of Slovenia's 212 municipalities over the next 12 months. Of course it is not the first time we are getting out and about. I have already visited many parts of Slovenia over the last two years. Both for work, visiting brilliant Slovene tech companies partnered with the UK and Chambers of Commerce across the country, debating the future of the EU with students at Maribor University and meeting British and Slovene troops training together in Bohinjska Bela. And for pleasure, highlights being the Pippi festival in Velenje that my kids adored, staying on Mala Planina, and a lazy holiday in Soča with the odd dip in the Nadiža. And my Deputy Paul Jancar, who has Slovene roots as you may be able to spot from his name, and our trade and consular teams are often out and about too.

But this year we are going for it in a bigger way in honour of twenty five years, and with an eye on the future. After all, as an Embassy we represent the UK in Slovenia, not just Ljubljana (much as I love my adopted, beautiful, green city and I really do!)

We are embarking on this challenge for two reasons. In part, it is about deepening our links right across Slovenia - discussing the UK's new relationship with Slovenia and the EU post Brexit, building trade partnerships, as well as our defence, cultural, education and people to people links. (In fact one of my favourite moments as Ambassador was meeting Ales and Majda Paternoster from Kranj who met on a student exchange to Oldham fifty years ago and have stayed in close touch with friends there ever since). And in part it is about deepening our understanding of your amazing country where I am honoured to represent my government. So I was in Žirovnica for Prešeren Day and can’t wait to experience Kurentovanje in Ptuj, as well as visiting Slovenia's smallest municipality Osilnica, I hope.

We've only just started and have some way to go ... Track our progress on Facebook and Twitter. We would also love suggestions or invitations to help us meet the 212 challenge in great spirit!

Sophie Honey, British Ambassador to Slovenia

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