British Consulate in Porto to close

JACK STRAW has announced that the British Consulate in Porto is to close, along with Britain’s diplomatic representation in 18 other locations around the world.

In response to the news, the British Embassy in Portugal is guaranteeing that British residents in Porto will still be able to receive the required services. “In some form, there will still be representation in Porto,” the embassy said, since an honorary consul is to be appointed in the city – as is already the case in Madeira and the Azores – and he/she will act as a consular assistant, providing “all the services of a consulate”.

When asked if this situation can be seen as a “demotion” of Porto or of Portugal, a source at the embassy justified the closure as “a necessary action to reorganise some powers (abroad) and strengthen others”.

Along with the British Consulate in Porto, consulates in Japan, the US, Puerto Rico, the Cameroon and Germany are also set to close, among others. Various embassies are also on the closure list in countries such as Swaziland, the Bahamas, Paraguay, Madagascar, East Timor and others.

“We see this reorganisation as essential, to demonstrate greater efficiency in our capacity to represent British interests abroad and to align our resources according to priorities both diplomatic and commercial,” declared the Foreign Office in a written statement. To date, the British Consulate in Porto has not been given any set date for the closure, but it has been confirmed that the diplomatic reshuffle across the world is to take place by 2006.

Some Porto business owners have been quite shocked by the announcement. This reaction is unsurprising since, according to recent reports, Porto has one of the largest British communities in Portugal, in addition to those in the Algarve and the Lisbon areas of Sintra, Estoril and Cascais, that together make a total of 30 to 40,000 British citizens living in the country.

However, Albino Jorge, of the wine company Taylor’s, felt it was down to a matter of costs and security, commenting that, “the more representatives posted around the world, the greater the risks for those countries”. Meanwhile, Paulo Amorim, president of the National Association of Wines and Spirits Exporters (ANCEVE), was disappointed with the news as he feels it spells the end of a “cultural tradition”.