H E Dominique Mineur – Ambassador of Belgium to the UAE
Edited by Shereen Shabnam
In this profle story, we follow the personal journey of H. E Dominique Mineur – Ambassador of Belgium to the UAE. Her travels and inspiring life documented below reflects the international outlook of a Diplomat.
Born in Burundi, I was exposed to expatriation since childhood. My parents travelled a lot and thanks to my father being a pilot, I used to follow him, if not physically at least on a map. Geography had no mystery for me. From time to time my sisters and I were allowed to accompany him.
However, my roots remained in Belgium. It was my base, my home. As a typical Belgian, I have roots in the North and the South of the country. Living in Brussels, my mother who originates from the North, taught me the culture of Flanders and my father the culture of Wallonia and of the world.
Nevertheless, my mind kept flying away. My studies in art history and archeology, in particular the Roman and Byzantine period in the « bilad al Sham », gave me the opportunity to work with an archeologist in Greece, but also in East Jerusalem. It is there that I started to develop a particular interest for the Arab world.
Before joining the Foreign Service, I worked for various United Nations Agencies. The humanitarian work in the Palestinian Occupied Territories for UNRWA, the Peace Keeping Operations in Cambodia and then for the High Commissioner for Refugees, will always remain deep in my heart, in particular the work in the refugee camps. The human suffering, particularly amongst young children having little prospective is still something I find profoundly difficult to accept and these are things that I will never forget.
However, after more than 8 years of work for the UN, I found that there was one aspect missing in my work and that was serving my country. This is why I finally decided to pass the diplomatic exams. This new career took me from Paris to Vienna, to New York and then Geneva, before coming back to Brussels as Deputy Director for Middle East and North Africa, a few months after the start of the Arab revolution. The work was thus very challenging, but also the best way to learn and react fast.
The UAE was my first position as Ambassador. As a first experience in the Gulf, it was and still remains a fascinating world to discover. When I arrived in September 2014, I barely had six months to receive one of the largest economic missions Belgium ever had. More than 400 businessmen accompanied by H.R.H. Princess Astrid and 6 Ministers came to Abu Dhabi and Dubai for 4 days. I was very proud to welcome them and have the opportunity to strengthen ties between our two countries. The hospitality of the UAE was impressive. This record number was a clear sign of the high expectations from the Belgian business community and of the excellent relations between our two countries.
Already 50 years ago, Belgium, through its company Six-Construct, helped shaping the face of Abu Dhabi. The Corniche is a masterpiece of Belgian know-how and expertise. Since then, many Belgian businessmen came to the United Arab Emirates and the number is growing every year. The Belgian community has increased to almost 3350 today, from 2700 when I arrived in sept. 2014. This is the largest Belgian presence in the Arab world.
Some 240 Belgian companies are established here and cover various sectors, such as engineering, high technology, health, chemistry, renewables, dredging and land reclamation, water management, diamond, art and design, and of course the well know delicacies, such as the Belgian beer cafés, the “Pain Quotidien” and our famous Belgian chocolate brands and distributors.
Belgium is proud as one of the main artisan of the Solar Impulse, where the company Solvay demonstrates that chemistry can be used for renewables. Some artificial islands here were built by De Nul and Deme and heavy works such as earthmoving were done by companies such as Aertssen. Even on the cultural side, a team of archeologists from the Royal Museum of the Cinquantenaire and the University of Gent come every year to Sharjah and are making interesting discoveries in Mleiha.
There are also more UAE companies coming to Belgium and UAE today is the first trading partner for Belgium in the region. We are amongst the first EU-partners for the Emirates which builds strong and steady diplomatic ties.
Since the early 80s, relations have been fostered at the highest levels. Late King Baudouin, came to Abu Dhabi in 1981 and met with Sheikh Zayed. From the 80s on, the Crown Prince Albert, led several economic missions to the Emirates. He was invited to inaugurate Qasr al Hosn, which was restored by a Belgian consulting team. When He became the King of the Belgians, it was Crown Prince Philippe, who continued His role at the helm of the Belgian economic missions. The mission last year was a continuity of this long relationship and I am proud to see that this relationship remains strong.
It is in this context also that together with the Belgian Business Council in Dubai, I will launch for the first time, a Belgian week in the UAE. It will take place from 17 to 24 November. The purpose will be to reinforce our relationship in a few high technology sectors. We have all been impressed by the work the UAE has put into space technologies and its ambitions to send a Mars mission by 2021. As a country also strong in High Technologies and in space we decided to invite the Belgian astronaut Frank De Winne to the UAE. Around his presence and together with some high tech companies such as Barco, we will organize a few events in Abu Dhabi and Dubai. At the same time we will promote our Belgian “art de vivre”. The Belgian food and delicacies will be part of our festivities.
My hobbies include reading books, one of the most enjoyable way to continue my discovery of the regions where I am based. Most of the time I try either to discover the literature of the country where I work or to read about its history. I am also fond of classic music and opera in particular. At the same time sports is vital to keep the mind active. I used to play tennis a lot. When I was younger, I did some competitions.
The function of a diplomat is one of the most beautiful in the world, as it allows us to live in many countries, study them in all their aspects and be in touch with the most diverse societies. But it will only be satisfactory if it leads to positive achievements like reinforcing relations between the countries with concrete results or helping people to overcome their difficulties brings satisfaction.