The new president of the Consular Corps of London George Georgiou has a big year ahead of him with a milestone annivesary and the 2012 Olympics.
George Georgiou is a man with many plans. The Consul General of Cyprus has taken over the helm at the Consular Corps as the organisation celebrates its landmark 110th anniversary – making it by far the oldest diplomatic association in the capital.
Established in 1902, the original membership would probably have been rather small since no more than about 60 sovereign states were in existence, while vast swathes of the world were under colonial rule.
“But just because our club is old, doesn’t mean it can’t change,” smiles George, who plans a bit of a shake-up in 2012.
Keen to banish a somewhat stuffy image of the Consular Corps, George wants to introduce a series of less formal, social events where consuls can get together and network over a cocktail. Three ‘pilot’ events – the summer Consular Cruise down the Thames, the Consular Welcome Reception at the Langham Hotel (to view click here) in the Autumn and most recently, the cracking Consular Christmas Party (to view click here) have all been very successful, not only for the current membership but for attracting new members into the fold.
“We have many new members now – more than 150 different countries are represented in the club,” says George.
Dancing at the Christmas Party
At the same time George is very conscious that his members do very serious work in London assisting their nationals which is why he plans to continue the speaker programme. But in these straitened economic times, George wants to deliver value for money by getting high-calibre speakers, such as the Home Affairs Select Committee Chairman, Keith Vaz MP, who recently addressed a packed audience of consuls (see article p4).
Consular Corps President George Georgiou
Welcome for new consuls
Keith Vaz addresses the Consular Corps
Added to this, George wants to introduce a series of theme-based seminars or ‘Consular Academies’ – the first of which will take place at the Sri Lanka High Commission and will investigate the relationship between HM Coroner, Casualty Bureau, Police Family Liaison, Disaster Victim Identification and funeral repatriation.
Site visits are also a possibility, adds George, for instance a trip to an immigration removal centre or indeed a familiarisation tour to the Olympic Park.
“Our aim is simple: to get people with a consular interest to network together and in this way to better serve all our citizens”
Preparing for 2012
The predicted influx of visitors for the 2012 Games is likely to add to the already heavy workload of consuls, who will be on duty 24/7 to assist any nationals who get into trouble during the Games. Some consular sections are considering bolstering staff numbers to deal with an anticipated surge in consular enquiries over the summer.
More than ever consuls will need to be prepared with a list of helpful contacts to best assist their nationals – and having a huge network of consuls and their knowledge to tap will prove invaluable over the coming months.
The Corps may be 110 years old next year but essentially the work of consuls hasn’t changed much. While new technologies such as biometrics or social networking can help a consul in the digital age, it remains fundamentally a people-orientated service and nothing can replace good old-fashioned networking.
As George concludes: “Our aim is simple: to get people with a consular interest to network together and in this way to better serve all of our citizens.”
Summer Consular Cruise