EU Ambassador Enthralled with T&T

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Part 1

By Prior Beharry

He has been to 94 countries but the European Union (EU) Ambassador to Trinidad and Tobago Peter Cavendish has never found a place like the land of Calypso, steelband and Chutney music. He considers Trinidad and Tobago “a dream posting.”

Speaking to AZP News recently at the EU’s Queen’s Park East office, he said, “I’ve been to 94 countries in my job and as I am an Ireland boy; I’ve been to Jamaica as an island, I’ve been to Cuba been to Sri Lanka, Madagascar, many others and this place is unique.

“You have the different multi-heritage groups, Indian African, Portuguese, Spanish, French, British, Venezuela and Venezuelan indigenous and it’s such a geographically well-positioned country as well, like one-third of the world’s trade passes to the north of this country.

“The influences here are vast. I’ve always wondered in some ways, why some cultures are more creative than others and it’s something to do with being an island. And it’s something to do also with different heritage groups.

“Like Madagascar, (T&T) is an amazing place but I will be frank and put my cards on the table and I think this is the most interesting island I’ve ever been to.”

Cavendish grew up in Ireland and was educated by the Spiritan Fathers, the same priests that run St Mary’s College in Port of Spain, so he heard stories about T&T from an early age.

He said, “I’ve been told in my early childhood many times as to how beautiful this country is and how kind the people are and several priests in my school, and those days priests were teachers, came here with Father Galvin, who was with St Mary’s for three years.”

Cavendish said even the previous Papal Nuncio to T&T was educated by the same Spiritan Father as he was at St Michael’s College in Dublin.

At 63 years, he got the impression that T&T an exotic place, but the locals don’t understand what they have.


Cavendish said his liking for spices has greatly increased and carry his guests for doubles at the airport as soon as they touch down.

He has his favourite roti and bread shop and the first time he drank coconut water and had a sorrel drink was in Trinidad.

“Quite amazing. And things like ice cream, soursop, and these things and the cuisine here is better than Europe. Let’s be frank. I mean, certainly the high cuisine in France which of its own, it’s actually a work of art.”

Cavendish said, “I’ve been here since April 2021 and you know, I consider it sort of dream posting.

“It’s the literary creativity here and I find that again; it’s this meeting of cultures, it’s meeting of different linguistic groups. I mean, the country has produced Soca, this country has produced Chutney Soca. The country has produced numerous writings, and I find on a daily basis even Trinis used words, such, ‘and whatnot,’ which maybe no longer used in England.

“But then they’ve other words which are very old like, stick-to-itiveness. I mean, I find it amazing that ‘we have stick-to-itiveness. We’re going to get the Carnival done (with) stick-to-itiveness’. “

He said there was a communications genius in the people which has led to successes in many areas.

An example is the Spotlight Initiative, in which the EU has spent €4.5 million in this country and €50 million in the region and half-a-billion Euros worldwide.

Spotlight Initiative is a campaign against violence against women and girls. Cavendish added, “Your country has succeeded the best.”

He added, “And I think it’s quite simply people are able to get things done in fluid communications, over multiple theatres of intervention, and your country has guidelines, it has an action plan. And I think it’s a glowing success story of European Union and United Nations and Trini involvement and it was done with stick-to-itiveness.”

Cavendish said the wife of the Prime Minister, Sharon Rowley is an unofficial ambassador to the Spotlight Initiative.

He said there were issues of violence against 30% of women not just in T&T, but in the world.

Cavendish loves steelpan and bought his daughter the first one produced by Musical Instruments of T&T with its registration 001 and not 007, he quipped.

He said, “Every child who visits the house in, London wants to play on the Trini steelpan and it feels amazing, the challenge.”

Cavendish’s Norwegian wife is pursuing her career in her homeland and his two children are working and living in London.

He uses WhatsApp, FaceTime and other technologies to stay in touch as “we’re living in the age of remote communications people move around like never before. I think it’s very important to check in on anniversary’s dates and other things and of course, you can always send a little messages by WhatsApp in other ways.

“So yes, the diplomat’s life, historically is difficult in the sense that it has a stress on family, but it’s extremely satisfying and you have to go back to what is a diplomat originally, ultimately, we’re messengers.

“So it’s all about communications, the word ambassador, in fact means messenger and the case of the diplomatic service of the Vatican, they’re still called papal nuncios, the people who announce, nuncios to announce. So, the diplomat’s life is certainly, it’s intriguing, it’s fascinating. Everyday it’s different.

Schuman Declaration

Asked about the relevance of the Schuman Declaration today, Cavendish said, “The Schuman Declaration is basically a call for a future without war in Europe by putting the disagreements of the past behind us by pooling originally coal and steel but by becoming more integrated to avoid that the European nations would attack and fight wars with each other.

“We talk about two World Wars but in fact if you go back to the 1700s we’ve had three or four with the English French Wars and the wars with India that dragged in everybody.

“I think that the Schumann Declaration was a fundamental call for change from those manhoods had survived fathers and grandfathers two World Wars and seen the destruction and ultimately wanted to avoid a repetition.

“And here today we’ve seen that those fears are real. We have the attack of Russia on Ukraine, it’s not Central Europe, but it shows that these unfortunate divisions that exist within are there, they are buried but they’ve not gone away and I’m coming.

“I had family who served in the first and second World Wars and I believe the European Union is more relevant and necessary than ever.”

He said the EU comprised four percent of the world’s population.

Cavendish added, “Now there’s a fundamental change in shift in the European psyches as well. I hope that this thing with the Ukraine will come to an end sooner and in a good way for the Ukraine.

“But Europe is in transition, we are a very ageing society, we feel that we have a lot to offer in terms of culture and friendship and trade with an economic partnership agreement, with this country, all of your goods, go to Europe without taxes.”


Speaking about the largest free travel area in the world, he said, “We have Schengen with this country all of you Trinis with a passport can go for 90 days. But Europe and the Schumann declaration, I consider that it has helped keep the peace in Europe now since 1945, we’ve had exceptions, of course, with that side of the European Union, with the wars, and the former Yugoslavia, the war between Russia and the Ukraine. But what other disputes might have come along, if we’d had dangerous populists take control.”

Israel and Palestine

And what is the EU’s position on the Israel and Palestine war, he said, “We are the biggest donors of aid to the Palestinians. We are the biggest donors through UNRA (United Nations Relief and Work Agency) and medical aid for certain Palestinians, Islamic aid and other bodies.

“Our take on it is that Israel has a right to exist, it has a right to self-defense but in its war with Hamas it must always respect the rules of war and the level of civilian casualties is a grave cause for concern.

“Also we have the fact that we will be first to try and help rebuild matters once this comes to an end. The European Union favours a two-state solution in the Middle East and I go back because I am Irish, we had Protestant and Catholic people for 29 years in the north of my country.

“North of the island, some of them seeking to kill and injure the others, and we now have peace for a newly a quarter of a century. Are their lessons to be learned from this, I don’t know, the power play and the politics within the Middle East are very different.

“I think that everybody in Europe empathises, fully with the innocent men, women and children of Gaza. The number of children who have been killed is huge, number of women huge, non-combatants.

“And you would hope that there was another way that decency would prevail and the innocence would not suffer. I go back to historic expression, if the people who start the wars had to fight them, then maybe things would be different.  

“I empathise with all of the innocents, both the women of Israel and the men and the children who were attacked by Hamas. Clearly, I think Hamas, did not expect to succeed to the degree that they did, And I think that’s the Israeli response is I think that the concerns expressed by the hierarchy about high level of civic casualties.”

 EU biggest donor of cash

Cavendish said the EU was the biggest donor in cash terms, but gave credit to America for a lot of food aid.

He said, “We like to say sometimes we are putting the petrol and the diesel in the cars and trucks of people carrying other people’s aid, and you don’t see our petrol and diesel when stuff has been shipped but in cash terms we’ve the largest and often in humanitarian aid areas, we are the largest in absolute terms but I want to be very clear, the Americans are our closest allies, we view the transatlantic friendships and that includes Canada, Mexico, United States.”

International help

Recently, T&T Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley said the CIA and FBI were in the country helping in the fight against transnational crime.

Asked if outside assistance was needed to fight crime, Cavendish said, “It goes both ways. We need access to what’s going on here because there’s a whole trafficking of drugs and money laundering. 

“Across, the region from Europe and it’s outside, we need you as much as you need us. Police in Amsterdam wondering why the stuff is coming out of these containers and they find drugs. “It’s a worldwide problem, requiring worldwide coordination. I mean your country is paying a penalty for a lot of external actors, be it guns or drugs. And we’re willing to support, we don’t want the drugs in Europe. It is a, the level of saturation in some parts of Europe.  So, yes, international coordination is needed for both sides.

Illegal guns.

He said the illegal guns were not coming from Europe where there was heavy gun control in Europe.

Cavendish said, “We don’t have a gun society.”

He said, “What I would say on the issue of gun control and crime, I would hope that they’ll impact the support on the police, with technologies capacities be it accelerating the use of DNA testing accelerating. I consider that a lot of work on intelligence would bring benefits.”

 Climate change

Regarding climate change, the EU had funded solar panels at the Piarco International Airport where 12% of its electricity was now green.

He said solar panels were at 12 other sites including turtle nesting sites, reptile centres, schools, beekeeping centres as well as Asa Wright Nature Centre.

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