Tuesday, 2 March 2021, Düsseldorf, North Rhine-Westphalia: Her Britannic Majesty’s Ambassador to Germany, Jill Gallard, paid a visit to the NRW State Chancellery which marked her inaugural visit to the most populous German federal state since assuming her ambassadorship on 11 November 2021 in Berlin.
She was accompanied by the British Consul General in Düsseldorf, Rafe Courage, and received by NRW Minister of European and International Affairs, Dr. Stephan Holthoff-Pförtner. Together the trio gave the starting signal for the anniversary celebrations between NRW and the UK by virtue of witching on the light installation with the logo “75 Years of Friendship” projected onto the Behrens Building is the prelude to a whole series of events, competitions, discussion rounds and other encounters.
The year 2021 is to be a festival of freundship – despite the ongoing pandemic. Ambassador Jill Gallard affirmed that the two countries are “closer than ever before”. She is certain: “We will further expand and strengthen the friendship: As close trading partners, in many town and school partnerships and as regular visitors to each other’s countries.” It is now a matter of working “together on a new chapter of our long friendship”.
Both sides also see the celebrations as a signal at a time when headlines about the onerous consequences of Brexit dominate the public image: Relations between the UK and North Rhine-Westphalia are bright. Two key figures: No other federal state has as many British residents as North Rhine-Westphalia – 20,700 citizens. Over 1400 British companies operate in North Rhine-Westphalia. The state government’s celebrations of North Rhine-Westphalia’s 75th birthday on 23 August will also be a highlight in the year of the friendship anniversary.
For it was the British military government that launched North Rhine-Westphalia in 1946 under the code name “Operation Marriage” by merging the northern part of the Prussian Rhine Province and the Province of Westphalia. “We know how much we owe to the British,” emphasised Europe Minister Holthoff-Pförtner at the start of the anniversary celebrations. “After the United Kingdom’s departure from the Customs Union and the Single Market, we will make our relations even closer. I am convinced: together we will remain Europeans.” Holthoff-Pförtner also emphasises that the United Kingdom – a country with a permanent seat on the UN Security Council – will remain an important partner in shaping international policy.
For further information:
Ministry of European and International Affairs of NRW: https://mbei.nrw/de/pressemitteilung/europaminister-stephan-holthoff-pfoertner-und-botschafterin-jill-gallard-eroeffnen
British Consulate General in Düsseldorf – responsible for NRW, Hesse, The Saarland and Rhineland-Palatinate (Consul General Rafe Courage): https://www.gov.uk/government/people/rafe-courage.de