BRUSSELS, BELGIUM — Embassies of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas around the world serve critical roles in developing relationships that drive trade and development for The Bahamas. In 2019, the Embassy of The Commonwealth of The Bahamas, led by Ambassador Maria O’Brien, was established in Brussels, Belgium, to build regional and direct EU relationships that lead to sustainable and inclusive growth for The Bahamas. Since the signing of the Cotonou Agreement in 2000, The Bahamas’ lack of presence in Belgium resulted in missed opportunities that were available from the EU in 2002, 2008 and 2014 to support the development of agriculture, trade, the private sector, the culture and creative sector under the ninth, tenth and eleventh Economic Development Fund (EDF) for African, Caribbean and Pacific countries.
Since 2019, the embassy has accomplished significant milestones by engaging bilaterally and multilaterally with the European Commission, the European Parliament, the Council of the European Union, the European Council, every European Union Member State and with the Organization of African, Caribbean and Pacific States.
The embassy has created access to technical and financial support for local businesses to increase trade with the EU. Additionally, it has taken a strong stance on the country’s opposition to its placement on the EU blacklist and taking the necessary steps to have it removed.
As a result of the efforts of O’Brien and the Mission in Brussels, Bahamians are benefitting from programs that will benefit the country for generations. For the first time, The Bahamas will gain access to the $100 million Climate Services and Related Applications Programme, which supports development in agriculture and food security, health, water, disaster risk reduction and energy and is a key part of building the country’s ability to reduce the impact of the climate crisis and increasingly powerful hurricanes.
The Bahamas is also benefiting from the access to the $110 million, EU-supported TradeComm II Programme. Implemented in partnership with the Ministry of Financial Services, Trade and Industry and Immigration, the programme will develop an export strategy and provide technical assistance and financial support to help Bahamian businesses navigate and have easier access to export markets in the European Union.
In addition to farmers on Long Island and New Providence receiving technical training to improve their business operations, the embassy’s efforts to capitalize on trade and development opportunities have also resulted in the Bahamas Development Bank and BAMSI becoming members of COLECAP, an EU-supported association of companies and experts committed to reducing poverty, improving food security and food safety and strengthening the agri-food export sector in African, Caribbean and Pacific countries. This membership will enhance the ability of these organizations to assist businesses in the horticultural sector.
These groundbreaking milestones were accomplished with a staff complement of three people at the time.
O’Brien said: “There are many programs available for Bahamians from EU-funded organizations and with a skilled team of technical officers who can perform at a high level in Brussels, we can do even more for the country.
“Since 2019, there has been an ongoing effort to recruit qualified candidates. The embassy needs the best and the brightest Bahamians, whether they come from within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs or other ministries within the Public Service.
“They should know of the incredible career opportunities available at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and be encouraged to apply to serve The Bahamas in that capacity.”