The ambassador of Great Britain in our country His Excellency Steve Williams:“Bulgaria is a wonderful country which has to be seen closer.”
The Ambassador of Great Britain in our country His Excellency Steve Williams was born on 20 July 1959 in town Coventry. He has graduated geography in Sidney Sussex College of the Cambridge University. He started to work at the British Ministry of Foreign in 1981
He has also worked for the mission of Great Britain in Buenos Aires, he was First Secretary of The Permanent Representative Agency of the Kingdom in EU – Brussels, First Secretary of the British Embassy in Oslo etc.
From 1984 to 1987 he was a Second Secretary /regarding political and cultural issues / at the British Council in Sofia, and since october 2007 he is a british ambassador in Bulgaria.
He is married, he has two daughters and a son.
Your excellency, you have been representing the UK in Bulgaria for already one year. Is this long or short for a work of a diplomat?
Let me answer it this way: I can’t believe that the year has past by so quickly! And that shows what a full and active year it has been for me. In our diplomatic life we usually spend around 4 years in one job, so you learn to treat every year as a precious experience – and that is certainly true for me here in Bulgaria.
Have you managed to get to know our country for this time? What do you like about Bulgaria? What do you tell your friends about it?
Bulgaria is a wonderful country to explore. There are so many beautiful, interesting and diverse things to see and do in a relatively compact area – and that’s what we tell our friends and family. They must believe us because several of them have been out to visit us in our first year! Of course I do quite a lot of travelling around the country for work – it’s vital not to be too “capital-centric”. I’ve been to several of the major cities – Plovdiv, Varna, Bourgas, Haskovo, Kurdzhali, Veliko Turnovo, Stara Zagora. and Lovech. I’ve also visited Bansko and Sunny Beach, which are important for our consular work because of the numbers of British tourists that visit. But Fiona (my wife) and I have also done plenty of private exploring – to Rila, Melnik, Kovachevitsa, Tigrad Gorge, Bachkovo, Klisura, just to mention a few places. We’ve got the booklet of 100 top attractions and our goal over the 4 years is to try to visit them all! And of course on our doorstep in Sofia we have one of the country’s best treasures: Vitosha. Fiona and I love to go walking on Vitosha at weekends.
In what areas are your work priorities? How does your day go?
My job is to promote British interests in Bulgaria. Some of that is traditional bilateral diplomacy such as promoting trade and investment, delivering consular services for British nationals in Bulgaria, supporting the British Council in strengthening our cultural and educational links. But with Bulgaria now a partner of the UK’s in the EU and in NATO, much of the Embassy’s work is devoted to working with Bulgaria as a partner in tackling global challenges such as climate change, energy security, regional stability in areas like the Western Balkans and the Caucasus, and the fight against terrorism and organised crime. And to answer the second part of your question – every day is different, and often my careful plans for the day can be changed by some new development that requires urgent attention. And that’s what makes it fun and interesting!
Are you expecting that the process for issuing working visas for Bulgarians who want to stay and work in the UK would become easier?
Since Bulgaria joined the EU in January 2007, Bulgarians no longer require a visa to travel to the UK. However it is true that there certain restrictions on access by Bulgarian nationals to the UK labour market. These were introduced by the UK, like many other Member States, for a transitional period following Bulgaria’s (and Romania’s) accession. The needs of the UK labour market are kept under regular review and the Government established a Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) that provides independent objective advice to the Government. A further report from the MAC is expected shortly. Full details about working in the UK can be found on the Embassy website.
A couple of words about your joint work with the British Council in Sofia and the BBCC?
The British Counci, working in the areas of education, science, arts and culture, has a thriving operation here in Bulgaria and we work very closely together: their work supports the Embassy’s work and vice versa. The British Bulgarian Chamber of Commerce (BBCC) is one of our valued partners for the Embassy’s trade and investment work, both here and in the UK. Earlier in the year I spoke at a seminar on doing business with Bulgaria organised by the BBCC in London.
Tell us something about your family. Have your wife and children joined you in Bulgaria? What are their impressions of Bulgaria?
Fiona is here with me. Our eldest daughter, Clare, has just started working in London, our younger daughter Emma has just started university in the UK, and our son Ross is in his final two years at school in the UK. But all 3 love coming out to Sofia for the holidays and think we have picked a great place for our overseas posting!
What are you planning for the next three years of your posting? Shall we expect something more special?
The first year has been pretty special for me, so if the next three are as good, I’ll be very happy. On a professional level, I want to continue to work hard and to the very best of my ability to promote Britain’s’ interests and in doing so to further deepen and strengthen the relations between our countries.
What would you wish to the readers of Cherga BG?
A happy and peaceful 2009!