His Excellency Marc Trentesau, the Ambassador of the Kingdom of Belgium to the State of Kuwait and the Non-Resident Ambassador to the Kingdom of Bahrain, visited the island last month to receive the oath of Mrs. Martine Kindt, the new Honorary Consul of Belgium to the Kingdom of Bahrain.
Furthermore, with the oath-taking ceremony coinciding with the 146th Inter-Parliamentary Union Assembly being hosted in the Kingdom for the first time, the President of the Belgian Senate, Stephanie D’Hose, was also in attendance.
Kristian Harrison sat down with both of them to discuss the importance of the Honorary Consul position, the current state of bilateral relations between the two countries and more.
HE Marc Trentesau is a seasoned diplomat, having previously served as the Belgian Ambassador to Indonesia, Turkey and Morocco before assuming his position in Kuwait whilst also remotely serving as Belgium’s chief diplomatic presence in Bahrain.
His support in Bahrain has been heavily bolstered by the appointment of Mrs. Kindt, who now serves as the Honorary Consul. She will assist Belgian nationals in Bahrain with consular duties and also promote Belgian interests and the community in the Kingdom.
“I am delighted to be here in Bahrain to open the Honorary Consulate of Belgium in Bahrain,” His Excellency said. “It’s been long overdue for us to have a presence like this here. We used to have one many years ago but the position was unfulfilled until Mrs. Kindt graciously agreed to take the position. It’s a proud moment for the Belgian community in Bahrain to see her take her oath and I have no doubt that she will do a fantastic job.
“Honorary Consuls are volunteers who graciously support Belgian interests, especially in countries such as Bahrain without a permanent embassy. There is a relatively large community here with approximately 200 Belgians, which is a sizeable figure compared to many countries. It’s vitally important that they have someone to liaise with them, to be a trustworthy figure who can help them on the spot should they need it.”
Belgium has had a special presence in the Middle East stretching back to the 1970s, being particularly active in Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and, of course, Bahrain. One of the main industries that Belgian companies have interest in is dredging, and they have been vital in many aspects of construction in Bahrain, from land reclamation to modernising harbours and boosting logistical capacities.
There are also numerous firms active in the medical sector, with large contracts signed with various hospitals, whilst recently a delegation from the European nation visited Oman to sign a Memorandum of Understanding to promote and develop green hydrogen projects.
Belgium is a hub for producing and transporting gas, particularly hydrogen, in Europe and sees the Middle East as a platform for facilitating renewable energy as the world moves to more climate-friendly sources of power.
“Belgium’s relation with Bahrain is very strong,” argues His Excellency. “It is clear that the Kingdom has undergone significant changes in the last five to 10 years, in terms of opening its doors wider to international businesses. This has been the most significant step by far taken to boost ties between the two countries and I know many Belgian companies, investors and their employees who reside here are extremely happy.
“I’ve always felt warmly welcomed when I come to Bahrain and I appreciate how relaxed it is, so I can only imagine what it is like to live here. In fact, I am often told how nice it is!”
As an ambassador, His Excellency was not directly involved in the Inter-Parliamentary Union Assembly (IPU) since delegations are reserved for parliamentarians, but he warmly received the President of the Belgian Senate, Stephanie D’Hose, and engaged in talks during the oath-taking ceremony.
Ms. D’Hose has been the President of the Belgian Senate since October 2020 and is a representative of the Open Flemish Liberals and Democrats (Open VLD) party and at age 39 became the youngest person to ever hold the position.
She has become a popular figure in Belgian politics with her focus on promoting liberal causes, and has become a role model for young, vibrant and forward-thinking women pursuing roles in industries that have been traditionally male-dominated.
“This is my second time visiting the Arab world after previously visiting Dubai,” she explained. “Therefore, I already experienced the vibe of the region and I was so excited to see Bahrain as I’ve heard so many good things about it. I flew in at night and my first thought was how peaceful and relaxing the place was, with the welcoming lights and the friendly people to greet us, whether that was at the airport or the hotel.”
At the IPU, Ms. D’Hose gave an impassioned speech which was warmly received by nearly all patrons of the assembly, whether Bahraini nationals or international visitors. The overwhelming response, she says, emphasised the spirit of the Kingdom and encapsulated the warm, friendly atmosphere which it fosters.
“It really made me want to come back and learn more about the culture and people here, since I strongly admire the Arab way of life,” she said. “The IPU has been a wonderful experience in general; as a speaker I’m so used to seeing delegates and orators in my country (the Belgian capital Brussels is the headquarters of the European Union) that it’s nice to meet so many people elsewhere for a change!
“I’ve been impressed by how far women’s rights and opportunities have advanced in the region, with the recent parliamentary elections in Bahrain promoting more female representatives than ever before to parliament. It shows how progressive the region is becoming and I hope that my speech can inspire further change.
“Ultimately, in my home country I am the first civilian so I have to defend everybody’s rights, even the ones of those who I don’t agree with. I have a tough balancing act to try and make ten political parties work together and find compromises. It is tough sometimes, but the whole purpose of politics is to be able to find solutions for the population and people in need, so if you can’t do that why enter it in the first place? My goal is always to help those who need it and get the ones who can make a difference to cooperate.
“On a personal note, I will definitely return to Bahrain soon because I want to explore more of the country. I believe in one vision which is to experience as much in life as possible because you never know when it will end.”