Eastern Standard Time UTC/GMT -5 hours
Capital City Panama City
Currency Panamanian Balboa
National Day May 2
PANAMA’S NEW AMBASSADOR Mrs Natalia Royo de Hagerman hails from a political and diplomatic dynasty spanning three generations. Her father, Aristides Royo, was a negotiator on the Panama Canal treaties with the United States, who went on to become Panama’s President (1978-82) just a few years later. She vividly recalls learning from him “about the needs of the most vulnerable and how important it was for the whole country to regain the sovereignty of our territory.” Her great grandfather was Panama’s Consul in Barcelona, her grandfather Minister of Foreign Affairs (1932-36), and his brother was Panama’s Ambassador in Japan and France. “Politics runs in our family’s veins. Hopefully, this tradition will continue into the next generation of women in my family; politics needs active female participation!” she declares.
Mrs Royo de Hagerman arrived in London late last year. She joins her son who was already studying at LSE, while her husband and daughter still live in Spain but visit often. Since her arrival in the capital, she has been “amazed by how much interest Londoners demonstrate in global affairs and how conscious they are about sustainability and protecting the earth, exemplified by the number of immaculate parks and green areas here.”
After completing three master’s degrees in both Spain and New York, with “excellent teachers who inculcated in me their passion for international affairs and cooperation for development,” the Ambassador began a 25-plus year career working at various international organisations and in Panama’s foreign service. She worked in Panama’s Permanent Mission to the UN in New York, where she was responsible for the second and third committees on economic and social issues. She was in charge of the negotiations of the Development Agenda, the IV World Conference on Women, the World Summit for Social Development and the UN Conference on Human Settlements. She proudly recalls the day when she was named coordinator of the Rio Group representing 14 Latin American countries. “I realised the importance of being part of a group in order to achieve higher goals and to find common standpoints in issues that united us as a region.” Roles followed in the Organisation of American States, in UNESCO in Paris and in the Iberoamerican General Secretariat. “All of these experiences helped me understand international affairs and the important role that Panama plays in the global community,” she remarks.
As Charge d’Affaires at Panama’s Embassy in Spain (2015-19), Mrs Royo de Hagerman coordinated and organised meetings between Spanish businesses and Panama’s public and private sectors, in order to promote cooperation and investment between the two countries. “These efforts were quite successful in retrospect, resulting in an increase in Spanish investment in Panama.” She also focused on education, “spearheading an initiative to improve human talent in the public administration and a student exchange programme, providing scholarships to Panamanians to study in Spain.”
As Ambassador in the UK, her priorities are “to increase the visibility of what Panama has to offer, promote UK investment in Panama and increase tourism in Panama. We have an amazing, beautiful country, still unknown to many.” She’d also like to “create an educational project to help reduce the social and economic inequalities in Panama.”
Furthermore, she states, “Panama’s privileged geographical position makes it a natural hub to connect the world. Not only through the Panama Canal that connects the eastern and western hemispheres and provides routes to over 1,700 seaports in the world, but we are also an air transportation and logistics hub. Accordingly, Panama has become a centre for humanitarian aid, and our government a leader in the region. Our mission is to expand the cooperation between Panama and the UK in terms of what our hub has to offer.”
In terms of Brexit, the Ambassador remarks: “Panama has always had good relations with the UK and my feeling is that these relations will deepen in all areas. At regional level, we have already signed with the other Central American countries a Continuity Agreement with the UK, which ensures that we will continue to enjoy the same tariff-free access that we have today. In fact, we may even be able to improve upon the existing relationship.” She explains that the Association Agreement signed with the EU is made up of three components: trade, cooperation and political dialogue. “Currently, the only pillar that has been active between Panama and EU member states is trade, which includes the UK. So, I think that we will be able to improve the scope of the agreement by activating cooperation and political dialogue.”
Mrs Royo de Hagerman is proud that the Embassy has been quick to adapt to the realities of the Covid-19 crisis, “using technological tools to continue serving our country and our people here in the UK, as well as working with the UK’s institutions. We have assisted many Panamanians in the UK and Ireland with the support from our Foreign Ministry.”