PRIME Minister Dr Hubert Minnis officially opened The Bahamas Embassy and Mission to the European Union (EU) yesterday, hailing the move as a way to deepen relations with the EU and strengthen the country's position in the global economy.
The opening marks a milestone for The Bahamas by increasing the country's profile on continental Europe and signalling that The Bahamas is open for business, particularly in the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian.
Brussels hosts the headquarters of the main EU institutions and is considered the capital of Europe. The Bahamas Embassy and Mission is located near the European Parliament.
"The Bahamas has always had an understanding of the importance of our presence in the seat of the European Union and in the Kingdom of Belgium," said the prime minister during the opening ceremony yesterday.
The new mission will allow for increased trade between The Bahamas and Belgium and will enhance its diplomatic, economic, touristic and cultural ties with the EU and Belgium, said Dr Minnis.
As a maritime nation and archipelago, The Bahamas is prepared to take advantage of the offers of Belgian expertise in maritime affairs to enhance the maritime industry, he added.
The opening of the embassy also demonstrates the deep commitment of The Bahamas to its long-term relationship with the European Union, and a desire for the further development of the relationship, he said.
And the mission will allow for the enhancement of the relationship with the African Caribbean and Pacific Group of States and the process with the European Union (ACP-EU).
"With the EU as one our major economic partners, working alongside the ACP-EU will allow for further sustainable development for The Bahamas as well as the strengthening our position in the global economy," said Dr Minnis.
"We will promote the islands of The Bahamas as an attractive and stable investment opportunity in a number of sectors, including tourism, financial services, the Blue Economy and other industries."
Dr Minnis noted that The Bahamas offers an attractive and diverse suite of economic opportunities for potential investors.
The Bahamas passed the latest assessment by the OECD, confirming that the jurisdiction is a safe place for financial services and corporate investment activities, and the domestic legal framework of The Bahamas is in line with international standards, he said.
"Our presence here in Brussels will help to enhance our relations with a number of European nations, including potential technical and other assistance in areas such as education, renewable energy, agriculture, infrastructural development and other areas," Dr Minnis said.
"This includes accessing funds committed to the Green Climate Fund by European countries and other groupings."
The prime minister thanked Member-States of the European Union who provided assistance in the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian.
"We look forward to ongoing assistance in our recovery and reconstruction efforts, as we will rebuild the affected areas stronger and more resilient in the face of even more powerful storms and rising sea levels," he said.
He repeated his call for visitors to the many other islands in The Bahamas not affected by Hurricane Dorian. "The revenue from tourists visiting The Bahamas will play a vital role in reconstructing and rebuilding affected areas."
Maria O'Brien is the first resident envoy to Belgium.