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This Christmas time I’ve been thinking about what was achieved in 2013 and what we have to look forward to in 2014. When I look back at 2013, it was a bumper year for UK-French relations.
Written version (continued)
In sport we had a fantastic UK-French victory with Marion Bartoli and Andy Murray winning the Men’s and Ladies’ finals at Wimbledon followed shortly by Chris Froome on the Champs Elysée winning the Tour de France.
We had some memorable visits, including the honour of two royal ladies – the Countess of Wessex and the Duchess of Cornwall. I will particularly remember taking Sophie the Countess of Wessex, the wife of Prince Edward, to the British School and being welcomed by a lot of very excited tiny children waving British flags. They were all very pleased to see her but couldn’t quite believe she was a princess because she didn’t have a white dress and a tiara, which they were a little bit disappointed about!
We’ve done important work with the French in the commercial world. Major agreements have been signed with EDF and Areva for a new generation of nuclear power stations in the UK. We’ve also worked very well with the French on foreign affairs and managing crises. For me the year has been marked at the beginning by the French intervention in Mali where we helped with our own Royal Air Force transport aircraft and at the end with French action in the Central African Republic – and again the RAF have been there in support of France.
I look forward to 2014, where I think we will see an even closer working relationship between Britain and France in that area of foreign policy and security. Of course in Africa, but also over Iran. We’re also expecting the next round of the Geneva talks managing the awful Syria crisis and the unfolding humanitarian catastrophe in the New Year. Those and many other issue will be on the agenda for the UK – France summit in the UK on 31 January. We look forward to welcoming President Hollande on that occasion.
2014 is also going to be a very special year for commemorations. For example, the 20th anniversary of the opening of the Channel Tunnel by Her Majesty the Queen and President Mitterrand. The 70th anniversary of D-day, which will be a major occasion with the veterans on the beaches of Normandy. The 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War, which Britain will be commemorating in a number of key locations around France. And then, closer to home, the 200th anniversary of the Duke of Wellington buying this wonderful house from Pauline, the sister of Napoleon. We have a series of events running through the year which will show how this wonderful, old house can be used for forward looking and modern occasions. And we will keep you up to date with all of that on our social networking sites.