12th April 2017 Vilnius, Lithuania
Tomorrow is my last day in the office for about 6 months. I am taking a break to have a baby (in Lithuania) and will be back in November.
I will miss the work for the time I am away. It is a job I enjoy doing very much. I get to listen and talk to people across Lithuania, from history students at the University of Vilnius to business people in Šiauliai, from Lithuanian navy officers in Klaipeda to start ups over the road from the Embassy.
I also enjoy having real impact on the important relationship between the UK and Lithuania. We have seen many positive things happen in our relationship since I arrived in mid 2015. We have set up a new defence section and a new foreign policy officer has joined our team, expanding the work we can do with Lithuania on security issues. This work runs from discussing support for Ukraine to learning from Lithuania on strategic communications, as well as ensuring hundreds of British troops rotate through Lithuania for training and exercises. Our discussions on innovation and business have increased. For example on Fintech we have seen in depth policy discussion, as well as investment continuing in each direction. We have brought many British businesses out to Lithuania in the last year to find opportunities to work with Lithuanian companies. And our British Council presence has expanded, increasing the work we can do on education and culture.
I know that Andy Pearce, who will be Charge d’Affaires while I am on maternity leave, will also have much to get his teeth into. Negotiations on the UK’s exit from the EU will start, regional security will continue to be a priority, and exchanges between the UK and Lithuania in many fields will continue and grow. I know I’ll be building on this further when I return.
I am staying in Vilnius to have our baby. Lithuania is our home. My young son is settled in his Lithuanian school. My husband is settled into Lithuanian life. And our dog, a British hunting breed (beagle), is more than settled in the Lithuanian woods surrounding our house.
I hope that my maternity leave will give our family even more of an opportunity to explore the country. My Lithuania bucket list for the summer includes the Anykščiai treetop walk, Biržai, Žemaitija national park and a return to the Curonian Spit. I have a pile of Lithuanian literature ready by the bed. And there is a Lithuanian cookbook ready in our kitchen for a summer of Šaltibarščiai.
So I look forward to being back in November, even more immersed in Lithuanian culture and continuing to build Lithuania’s links with the UK. Iki.
Claire Lawrence – HMA Vilnius