Western European Time Zone UTC+00:00
Capital City Lisbon
National Day 10 June.
A heavy hitting career diplomat, Portugal’s new Ambassador His Excellency Mr Nuno Brito joined the Foreign Service at the tender age of 24, just after graduating from Law school. “Born in Angola, I was keen to learn about the world and decided to try my luck.” Indeed, he says, “the most memorable event of my career was my first day in the foreign ministry. I was a little shy, but immediately I felt at home, which is why I never left. Here I am almost 40 years later, and I certainly have not regretted it.” Indeed, his wife, Rosa Batoréu, is also a diplomat, serving as Portugal’s Ambassador at UNESCO in Paris.
After an exceptional career, he explains that London was the “obvious choice of where to go next.” After gradually climbing the diplomatic ladder since 1984, over the years he worked for two Prime Ministers as their diplomatic advisor, as the Political Director for the Foreign Ministry, as well as serving in New York as number two at Portugal’s mission to the United Nations. In 2011, he became Portugal’s Ambassador in Washington DC, before a posting as Ambassador to the European Union for six and a half years (2015-22).
In the latter posting in Brussels, he tackled meaty issues including “the UK leaving the EU, then came the COVID-19 pandemic and the Ukrainian crisis, plus all the practical and financial aspects that came alongside with these issues. In the US,” he continues, “it was different – perhaps more like my posting here. We focused on bilateral diplomacy, with a strong emphasis on people-to-people contacts, and the strong presence of the Portuguese community.”
Delighted to be in the UK, Ambassador Brito exclaims: “This should be a very interesting posting. We have a close relationship with the UK. The oldest alliance between two countries is between Portugal and what was then England (now part of the United Kingdom) since 1386 – 636 years and counting!” So, we have this incentive of looking at the past, to help us look forward to the future. I’m happy to say that we have already made a start on mapping out the future and have just approved a joint declaration between the two governments, so that speaks volumes for the relationship.”
Considering the current race for leadership of the UK government, he states: “Regardless of who is Prime Minister, our two countries have a stable relationship.” He recently “had the pleasure of my President joining us to celebrate Portugal’s national day. This was an important moment for the Portuguese people in the UK, a community of around 450,000. The UK is our largest tourist partner and are about 20 per cent of the tourists that travel to Portugal. The UK is one of our main trading partners, and we want to improve that. We have over 8,000 Portuguese students here at university, and over 2,000 researchers and scientists are working in the UK. The UK and Portugal are both members of NATO and have been cooperating well on the Ukrainian crisis. So, there are many points of contact.”
In terms of Brexit, Ambassador Nuno notes that “both countries have bilaterally adapted well to the new situation. This is a relationship that we want to nurture and take care of. The people-to-people contacts are also intense, and this also helps on the diplomatic level.”
Looking forward to COP27 later in the year, the Ambassador notes that Portugal will be promoting the EU agenda as agreed by the EU26. “The environment is a topical and important issue for us. We have just hosted the Ocean Summit in Lisbon, a UN event. For the past 10 years, we have been investing a lot in renewables. The effects of climate change and drought are particularly being felt on the Iberian Peninsula. We take that very seriously and we want to be at the forefront of transforming our economy to be more green, digital and sustainable.”
In terms of diplomatic challenges, Ambassador Nuno highlights that “It’s important for Portugal – along with other countries – to promote the concept of the international, rules-based system, and judges must abide by international law. When you consider the war of aggression against Ukraine, it’s now more important than ever to fight for these values, along with human rights and human decency.”
The Ambassador arrived in the capital on 1 April and was delighted to participate in the Jubilee celebrations. “It was an impressive event, and the British people and government should be congratulated for its success.” While based here, he looks forward to going to the theatre, and travelling around the UK. “If I remain in just in London, I won’t be doing my job properly,” he notes. “After all, there are Portuguese people all over the country.”
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