The climate is already changing – we can see it happening – the question is whether WE are all prepared to make the changes to our lifestyles to limit the damage done by the changes WE are making to the climate, says H.E Andrew Stuart Dalgleish UK Ambassador to Croatia. For the holiday edition of Diplomacy & Commerce magazine, we talked with the ambassador about Brexit, Covid 19, but also about the excellent relations between Croatia and the UK.
- End of the year is also the end of a one-year phase when Bexit should end? How much will the final separation from the EU affect the lives of ordinary citizens? What changes and what stays the same (studies, work, travel…)?
It is natural to expect that the United Kingdom’s departure from the European Union will bring about change. Both Croatia and the UK have made it clear that they still want to make it easy for visitors to travel between our two countries, enjoy our great cultures, landscapes, food and weather (well, Croatian weather anyway). People travelling on holiday won’t see much of a difference. Those wishing to travel for work or study will find that there are new processes they need to engage with. The UK will remain a fantastic place to do business and, with its world-class universities, an ideal destination for top students wishing to excel.
- Where and how can we get informed about all the changes that will occur as of January 01, 2021?
As always, the internet is the best place to look – British citizens should keep an eye on our “Living In Croatia” guide and the advice on our gov.uk website; those pages contain all the information needed for those living in and travelling to Croatia and they are being constantly updated. For those wishing to go to the UK, the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs website, and the Croatian Embassy in the United Kingdom are the best sources of information.
- When we talk about relations between the UK and Croatia, how do you assess them and where there is room for improvement? How much will Brexit affect the politics in this direction? Will it be necessary to transfer everything to bilateral relations or will it remain within the community?
Bilateral relations are excellent. It’s the job of every diplomat to say that. But in this case it really is true. Take a look at our joint work on defence issues (through NATO, but also through the bilateral programmes and events we have in place with our land, sea, air and special forces) – Croatia is a very special partner of the United Kingdom. But we also work together on the ‘softer’ yet hugely important issues such as education: We have shared our experiences of developing a new curriculum, providing training experiences through the British Council. Our countries’ innovative, IT brains have recognised each other’s abilities and are working together – exactly on 31 January, the date when we formally left the EU, a Croatian smart benches company Include opened its office in London. Infobip’s European headquarters has been in London for some time now. Our cultural connection is deep, with British humour and TV comedy being much appreciated in Croatia, and Croatian sporting superiority being much regretted in the UK… Personally, I believe that trying to express our relationship purely through the prism of EU membership is to limit it. We were bilateral (non-EU) partners for many more years than we have been together in the EU. Seeing each other in Council meetings in Brussels could be great. But seeing each other directly, one-on-one rather than as a large crowd, might be even better. Let’s see what we can do together to move our relationship forward on a different plane.
- The COVID 19 pandemic has affected the lives of us all. When talking about the Embassy’s plans and development of relations between the two countries, what can you announce for the next year?
Trying to predict anything at the moment is, thanks to Covid, extremely difficult! But the work that British laboratories and pharmaceutical companies have done to develop solutions to the pandemic has been absolutely outstanding. It’s fantastic to see that one of the early recipients of the vaccine in the UK was a Croatian citizen – Zlatan Ibadžić from Sisak, who works in the Nottingham City Hospital. Croatia has produced world-leading scientists and epidemiologists, some of whom like Kristijan Ramadan and my friend Igor Rudan are at work in the UK – I’ve seen them engaging in Croatian efforts to battle COVID-19 too. We have a lot to share and to offer each other. My Embassy will be looking at how to combat the disinformation and invented stories on the internet about both COVID-19 and the dangers of vaccines. It’s so important that we listen to the scientists – like the Croatian government, the British government and my Embassy will be working to explain why taking the vaccine is not just good for you as an individual, but good for society as a whole. Even if we can’t foresee how 2021 will turn out, we can be confident that the work we’re able to do together on tackling this pandemic will make a difference.
Apart from that, we will be trading with each other on different terms than we did last year. There is still a massive amount of potential growth in our trade relationship. But lots of business we can do together in a wide range of sectors. Building Back Better is a call to action following the economic damage done by Covid19. This is a chance for the global economy to re-evaluate how it does business. We will be building partnerships between cities in Croatia and the UK who are interested in exploring the benefits of operating a Smart City model – reducing their energy consumption, their carbon emissions, improving their waste management and their water consumption – so much to learn from each other. As much as we are occupied with COVID-19 at the moment, I’m sure both the UK and Croatia want to emerge from the corona crisis into a healthier world.
- You pay close attention to climate change. A Panel on climate change was held recently, in which you participated. What was in focus, what is the message and what has to be done as soon as possible?
Dangerous climate change is the biggest threat to life on our planet. It is caused by human activity and it is happening faster than any climate change that has ever been seen before – so fast that nature will not be able to evolve rapidly enough to adapt to it. The focus of the panel was to articulate the threat; and to identify the actions that we are able to take to manage that threat. The climate is already changing – we can see it happening – the question is whether WE are all prepared to make the changes to our lifestyles to limit the damage done by the changes WE are making to the climate. Understanding where the greenhouse gas emissions come from, how we are depleting nature’s ability to absorb those emissions, and what we can do to make a different ourselves on a personal level is the key message. Preventing dangerous climate change is going to impose a cost on us; but that is a far lower cost than that our children and grandchildren will have to pay as they try to adapt to the climate change that we and our parents have caused. We can make a difference. But we have to act now.
- Do you think that people’s consciousness is at a high enough level when it comes to climate change or is it still at the level of “abstract” and “distant” for most?
People all seem to be aware of the changing climate. There are those that are wilfully choosing not to see it. And there are those that see it and say that ‘it’s natural, the climate has always changed’ – they aren’t listening to what science knows about how the climate has changed in the past. So the reality of climate change is there and present in all reasonable people’s consciousness. Where there is a gap is in the readiness of each individual to do something about it. That something can be the way they vote – to elect governments who are committed to tackling the problem. Or the way they shop – to buy products that are carbon neutral, or that don’t produce waste. To change their diet – not to stop eating meat, necessarily, but to cut down their consumption of this significant contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. The list goes on. I believe in the basic goodness of humans – they tend to want to do the right thing.