As I celebrate today the Spanish National Day with my dear friends from Trinidad and Tobago, I would like to take the opportunity to say my goodbyes to this country which I will be leaving very soon after almost four wonderful years.
This has certainly been a very special time for me, during which my family and I have enjoyed many enriching experiences.
Our bilateral relations have been consolidated in all areas, and new avenues of collaboration have been opened in history, culture, trade, health, sports, and in the international fora—including with Caricom, the Association of Caribbean States/ACS, the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States, and also within the UN. Additionally, with respect to the EU-T&T relationship, Spain, through its three local EU presidencies in Port of Spain since 2010, and in close coordination with the EU Delegation in T&T, has contributed to a deeper and stronger partnership with this country, through, inter alia, the imminent launch of the first comprehensive round of the Cotonou Agreement Article 8 Political Dialogue (carded to take place at the end of this year); a new co-operation strategy in the context of the 11th European Development Fund/EDF; and the final thrust for the Schengen short-stay visa waiver for the citizens of T&T
Notwithstanding our successes, I must confess today, however, that as my term here comes to an end, I also have this nagging feeling of leaving behind some unfinished business. There are some areas in which we could have perhaps done more, and where arguably we should have progressed further. Some of the issues are:
• The much needed development of a new tourism model. Here, Spain’s expertise, and know-how, as one of the leading countries in this sector, and the world’s number one holiday destination, may be extremely valuable for T&T;
• Promoting together a more transparent and predictable foreign investment atmosphere and public procurement policy, that may finally render possible a diversification of the pool of international providers, which would ultimately support the strong commitment of this Government and the legitimate right of its citizens to access the best and most reliable products and services, under the most favourable conditions-;
• And thirdly, the promotion of Spanish as the second working language in this country. This continues to be a shared goal of both our governments. However, much more must be accomplished in this area.
These important pending areas set the stage for the next phase of our bilateral relations, and will undoubtedly keep my successor very busy.
On a more personal note, my family and I will always cherish the memories of our stay in Trinidad and Tobago—a country small in size, but big of heart. We’ve been very fortunate, indeed privileged, to have been allowed to share the lives and traditions of our local friends. We really have felt at home here. And more importantly, we will always remember the sincere warmth and very special wisdom of the people we have met. We don’t know when we will come back, or even if we will ever see these islands again. But the people of T&T should know that in us they will always have true friends. My family and I will always speak affectionately of this, our adopted Caribbean home.
With regard to today’s celebration (the most important date in Spanish history, commemorating the arrival of the first Castilian vessels, led by Admiral Cristobal Colón to America, on October 12, 1492), many of you may recall that in my National Day speeches of 2011 and 2012, when the local and international media were having a field day with Spain as a result of the very difficult economic situation in my country and Europe, I took the risk to rebuff the predictions of bailouts and collapse to which we Spaniards were subjected.
I knew then, as I know now, that in order to bring a country like Spain to its knees, something even more dramatic than the worst contemporary financial crisis would have been necessary. Why? Because anybody has been to my country or knows Spanish history, is also aware that our best and most valuable asset is the resilience and generosity of our people. Today Spain and the European Union have been able to weather the worst of the storm. I am particularly proud that my country is doing its part in this recovery process without forgetting its commitments (in Europe and elsewhere), all the while remaining loyal to its partners (including in the Caribbean), and making sure that our robust and ambitious reform strategy does not adversely affect other countries.
In closing, as the Golden Age Spanish playwright and poet Lope de Vega once said, “Uno piensa a veces que se ha marchado, y sin embargo no son pocas las ocasiones en las que el alma se queda…”. (“You sometimes think that you have gone from a place, but often you leave behind a piece of your heart …”). Perhaps this is what will happen to me, and what has happened to all who have visited this marvellous country: when I leave these islands in a few short weeks, I will also leave be hind a little piece of my heart. In any case, it seems to me that this is a good place to do so.
As I celebrate today the Spanish Fiesta Nacional with my fellow compatriots in T&T (muy feliz 12 de octubre a todos), let me end by thanking the Government and the great people of T&T for their hospitality and friendship.
• Joaquín de Arístegui Laborde is Spain’s
Ambassador to T&T