Press Corner

Thursday, 7 July 2005

The National Assembly for Wales
The Committee on European and External Affairs

Mr El-Menshawy: I am Mustafa El-Menshawy from Cairo, and I work for the Al-Ahram Weekly, which is an English-language newspaper. I have a question for Sir David Green, with whom I had a wonderful conversation yesterday. I would see the role of the British Council as something that still raises a question. New British Council offices were opened in Libya, Iraq and Afghanistan—three Arab and Muslim countries—and three offices have been closed in Ecuador and Belarus, and in Swaziland, a small country in Africa. What kind of criteria controls you to change the focus of the British Council? At the same time, it now looks like it is changing with the middle east, in a way. What are the plans of the British Council in the future, in the middle east particularly? As far as I am concerned, in Cairo, the British Council has a good reputation, more than any cultural organisation or institution in the country. How can you build on that, especially after some unfortunate incidents like the Iraq invasion and today’s bombings in London? I hope that people from the middle east did not do that.

11.50 a.m.
Sir David Green: I do not know how brief I can be, but I will try to be as brief as I can. The short answer to your question is that we look at all the countries in the world and assess how important the relationship is between that country and the United Kingdom and then see what level of impact we can make in that country. So, it could be a very important country in terms of our relationship with it, but if we do not feel that we can make very much impact, we would have a small presence there. When I say importance, I do not mean only economic importance, but also cultural, political and social importance.
On your question on the middle east, we have increased the resources that we have put into working in the middle east and we will continue to strengthen that.


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