On 9th May we celebrate the declaration by French statesman Robert Schuman in 1950 of the proposition to create a pooling of European coal and steel production. This was to lead to the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) and to become the first of a series of supranational European institutions that would ultimately become today's "European Union". The pooling of production of these key industrial products at the time was intended to make war between historic rivals not only unthinkable, but also materially impossible. The dream of a united and prosperous Europe, living in peace with itself and others became a reality. The deeply rooted hostilities were left behind and the European Union nations embraced the path of kind and cordial relations. By far the more ambitious course, but the one that ensures long-term peace.
It was correctly judged that the merging of economic interests would help raise standards of living and be the first step towards a more united Europe. Membership of the ECSC was open to other countries and from those six members of the ECSC the EU has progressed to 27 member states today. We are proud of our achievements. Europe has turned from a continent of war to a continent of peace. The project of European integration brought together almost 450 million people speaking 24 languages into one union, the European Union.
The EU today symbolizes peaceful cooperation, respect for human dignity, liberty, democracy, equality and solidarity among European nations and peoples. It is the largest trade power and development and humanitarian aid donor. It is the world's largest single market and the euro is the second most important global reserve currency. It is home to the largest union of democracies in the world. Our citizens are free to live, work and retire anywhere in Europe. It is at the cutting edge of innovation. EU membership has resulted in increased and shared prosperity. The living and working conditions of the average European citizen are better than at any time in their history.
What we have also increasingly achieved over the last eight decades is the recognition that our differences, our diversities are sources of strength that make us richer culturally and in many other ways. When we consider Trinidad and Tobago, one of the impressive facts is how diversity is also celebrated and cherished here. Trinidad and Tobago has achieved this without the sad history of destructive wars that occurred in Europe. Just as in Europe, citizens of this twin island nation have an inclusive identity and have produced distinctive food and musical styles like nowhere else. The outward looking culture seeks to progressively learn from what is new and good, but to adapt these to local needs and wishes. Situated in a region through which 30% of the world’s trade passes this nation is an important player in the petroleum, financial services and tourism sectors, in this ever-changing world Trinidad and Tobago is able to adapt and innovate.
Trinidad and Tobago’s motto “Together We Aspire, Together We Achieve” is comparable with the EU’s motto "United in diversity. The EU and T&T have arrived, by different paths, at mature cultural and social constructions that are the best tools for their citizens to progress in our ever-changing world.
The European Union’s diplomatic presence in Trinidad and Tobago began in 1976. At this the sapphire anniversary, some 45 years later, it is evident that the evolution from a relationship based solely on development cooperation to one based on a more comprehensive partnership of equals, addressing political, economic, trade, security, human rights and environmental issues is now firmly established.
This healthy relationship has been achieved through partnerships with Government, civil society organisations, non-state actors and other agencies. As we look forwards to the 50th, and gold anniversary, these partnerships are more important than ever and both the EU and Trinidad and Tobago value them as important assets to be cherished and maintained in the face of profound global challenges - the most serious of which is climate change and environmental degradation. Both the EU and Trinidad and Tobago as socially advanced high income economies have to meet this challenge of the millennium together, and with others, and we cannot afford to fail.
The world would be less well equipped to face this challenge without the foresight of Robert Schuman who sought a stronger Europe, stronger not only economically but also socially and politically.
Delegation of the European Union to Trinidad and Tobago