African diplomats followed a training course in Brussels to improve their knowledge. It provided the opportunity for Belgium to strengthen its diplomatic ties with the participating countries. An initiative by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Didier Reynders, organized by the Egmont Institute in close collaboration with the FPS Foreign Affairs.
What does this initiative involve?
Since 2014, the Egmont Institute (Royal Institute for International Relations) has organized training for foreign diplomats and high-level officials in the frame of its "Education & Training" programme. Each year, different countries are chosen to take part in two weeks of training concerning specific fields: diplomatic practices, negotiation, European institutions, mediation, etc.
"The training aims to present the institutions, diplomacy, history and culture of Belgium. We also want to enrich the skills and knowledge of the participants, as well as improve relations between Belgian and foreign diplomats," explains Ellen Moser, Project Manager within the "Education & Training" programme.
Training in diplomatic practices
Training in diplomatic practices, organized from 29 April to 10 May 2019, brought together French-speaking diplomats from four African countries: Angola, Ivory Coast, Guinea and Rwanda. Different seminars were organized, in particular on the institutional functioning of Belgium, the European Union and other institutions, the role of our country on various subjects, diplomatic negotiation, etc. In addition, the participants had the opportunity to visit some Belgian and international institutions, such as the Belgian Federal Parliament, the European External Action Service (EEAS) and the NATO headquarters.
“This training came at just the right time", explains Mr Grégoire Ahononga, first advisor to the Ivorian Embassy in Brussels. "Over these two weeks, I saw how Belgian institutions work. I now know exactly which institutions I have to contact for which file. For example, for matters concerning culture or education, you have to contact the communities and not the federal government. I can now be more effective in my work on bilateral relations between Belgium and Ivory Coast."
Mr Jean Touré, first secretary to the Guinean Embassy in Brussels, agrees with his peer: "I think that the training will help us to deepen cooperation between Guinea and Belgium and improve the quality of our different services. Belgium's method of working is stricter and more regulated than ours, and the institutions are better structured. We must recognize that our institutions are a reflection of the countries that colonized us. What we are trying to do is to modernize our administration and adapt it to our current socio-economic realities."
Deepening relations between Belgium and the participating countries does not come to an end after two weeks of training. Indeed, the Belgian embassies maintain the diplomatic network by establishing lasting links with diplomats in order to nurture amicable relations with their countries. The Egmont Institute is keen to pursue the collaboration initiated by this training, by exploring the possibilities of establishing more structural support for the initial training of public administration executives in these countries.