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Interview with Ambassador Trouveroy

Date: 
26 June 2017

 
Ambassador Trouveroy and his wife Nathalie arrived in London in January 2014 after diplomatic duties in Moscow. Now, after three and a half years in the UK and a diplomatic career spanning 40 years, they are returning to Brussels…to retire...? Not quite, as Ambassador Trouveroy explains.

 
Ambassador Trouveroy presents his credentials to HM Queen Elizabeth
Ambassador Trouveroy presents his credentials to HM Queen Elizabeth

 
On the way to Buckingham Palace
On the way to Buckingham Palace

 

Do you feel you have achieved your goals at the end of your posting in London?

There were 2 sets of goals. Firstly, to follow the political evolution within the UK. When I arrived at the beginning of 2014, there was already talk of a referendum on Europe by Premier Cameron. The Conservatives won the general election in 2015, the referendum leading to Brexit took place and we’ve seen turmoil ever since. I feel all the energy here and in Europe has been hijacked by this issue. Belgium is particularly focusing on Brexit because too many things are at stake. Firstly, the identity of the European Union which we strongly support. Secondly, the considerable commercial links with the UK which account for some 50 billion euros a year. Anything that weakens the UK weakens our commercial links. Brexit is fundamentally a sad story for everybody, including the Brits.

The second set of goals was to highlight the excellent but often less well known relationship we have with the UK historically, economically and culturally. This has been the main bilateral target of my job here. We have to ensure that people are aware of the richness of our relationship. Brussels and what it means in terms of the EU tend to blur the picture. A lot of people assimilate Belgium with the EU and when you then don’t like the EU you suddenly don’t like Belgium. That’s where we had to act.

2014 marked the start of 4 years of centenary commemorations. During  World War I Belgium was at the centre of conflict. We are immensely grateful for the huge sacrifices made in the past which rightly deserve to be commemorated. The Embassy participated in and/or organised some 100 commemorative events in London and all over the UK on WW1 alone. As many as 250,000 Belgian refugees took shelter in this country during the conflict. We were also involved in commemorations related to the bicentenary of Waterloo (1815). In all my spoken interventions I stressed two points: we fought together, the sacrifices were immense and we are very grateful for that. Secondly, I emphasised that these repeated conflicts have made Belgium very proud to be at the centre of the EU. The EU is not only a market, but mainly an effort in reconstruction and reconciliation, an idea of a future TOGETHER. The political, economic and cultural challenges have to be faced and met together.

 
‘Waterloo 200’ Guards at the Ambassador’s Residence
‘Waterloo 200’ Guards at the Ambassador’s Residence

 

What have been your personal highlights at this post?

I would first like to mention the two visits in 2014 of His Majesty King Philippe. Initially, to pay his respect to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth as Belgium’s new sovereign. A few months later he returned to inaugurate the Flanders Fields Memorial Garden at Wellington Barracks.

 
HM Queen Elizabeth and HM King Philippe opening the Flanders Fields Memorial Garden at Wellington Barracks
HM Queen Elizabeth and HM King Philippe opening the Flanders Fields Memorial Garden at Wellington Barracks

 
This garden contains soil taken from 70 cemeteries in Belgium and Northern France where soldiers have been buried. We have met some extraordinary and committed people in our common commemorative and charity work. Many of these British partners have become great friends. We have promoted Belgian businesses and organised some spectacular events, particularly in the field of high-tech. The Embassy has had the privilege to contribute towards the promotion of Belgian culture as well. I would also like to stress the positive cooperation with the representatives of the three Regions of Belgium. And last but not least, I am grateful to the British authorities for their warm welcome and their generosity vis-à-vis the Diplomatic Corps.

 
HRH The Princess Royal at a charity event for the ‘Cavell Nurses Trust’ at the Residence
HRH The Princess Royal at a charity event for the ‘Cavell Nurses Trust’ at the Residence

 

Has life in London matched your expectations?

London has been a great posting with countless opportunities to achieve great things, politically, commercially and culturally. The British authorities are extremely forthcoming and the tools in the toolbox are numerous. Therefore, London more than matched our expectations but at times you realise it’s a pretty crowded place which can cause technical difficulties.

 
What words come to mind when thinking about the UK and in particular London?

Extraordinary dynamism, multicultural, cosmopolitan, extremely attractive. I’ve been able to meet with and now say goodbye to people I encountered all over the world and who, in one way or another, have an anchor here in the UK and in London in particular. In that context, it is somewhat odd that the word ‘Brexit’ springs to mind.

 
And Belgium?

I think of Belgium as a diverse country which maybe should use its diversity more as an asset than a liability. I think Belgium and Brussels in particular are very open to the outside world. It’s not a coincidence that Brussels is both the headquarters of the EU and NATO. Belgium should take a moral leadership when it comes to further European integration in which I personally belief very strongly. I’ve loved my posting in London but I’m also ready to go home.

 
Considering the political events in this country during your posting here, how do you see the future of the UK evolve?

Let me tell you a little story. I was posted as political adviser in China at the time of Tiananmen Square. When I was about to leave the country, the personnel of the Embassy bought me a crystal ball saying that it may help with my reporting. I still have the crystal ball and when it comes to the future relationship between the UK and the EU, especially after the referendum and the recent election, I keep on caressing that crystal ball.

 
What plans do you and your wife have after you leave London at the end of this month?

We surely plan to visit London as often as possible but we first need to settle back, link with our children and meet again with the friends in Belgium we saw on and off over the past 40 years of our career. However, I’m not retiring but will continue working for our Foreign Ministry for a year or two.

 
Ambassador Trouveroy and his wife at the Great Annual Sheep Drive across London Bridge
Ambassador Trouveroy and his wife at the Great Annual Sheep Drive across London Bridge

 
If you could give your successor one piece of advice, what would it be?

London is an extraordinary generous posting. A European diplomat today has to balance the many opportunities that the UK offers with the Brexit decision to withdraw from a long and intimate partnership. Brexit will have enormous and unforeseen consequences but I would recommend to keep looking for the many positives that present themselves.