The Hon. Alexander Downer, MP
The Hon. Alexander Downer, MP

MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS, AUSTRALIA

Media Release

18 December 2006

Diplomatic Appointment: Ambassador to the European Communities and Belgium

I have today announced the appointment of Dr Alan Thomas as Australia’s Ambassador to the European Communities with concurrent accreditation as Ambassador to Belgium.  Dr Thomas will replace Peter Grey who has been Ambassador since October 2003.  He is expected to take up his appointment in Brussels at the end of January 2007.

The European Union (EU) is a significant partner for Australia economically and politically. Our strong and productive bilateral relations will remain important in pursuing a broad range of shared interests globally and in the Asia-Pacific region. We are engaged in cooperation with the EU to support good governance in the Asia-Pacific region and in activities to address the challenges of globalisation and the threats of terrorism and proliferation. Strong people-to-people links underpin Australia’s relationship with the EU, our largest trading partner and our major source of foreign investment.

Australia enjoys positive and constructive relations with Belgium and Luxembourg.   We have recently concluded a number of bilateral agreements with Belgium encompassing working holidays, health and social security. The Belgium-Luxembourg Economic Union (BLEU) is Australia's sixth largest investor with total inward investment (direct and portfolio investment) valued at A$28 billion in December 2005. The BLEU is the third largest EU investor in Australia. Two-way trade between Australia and the BLEU is also substantial, reaching A$2.5 billion in 2005-06.

Dr Alan Thomas is a senior career diplomat and is currently Australia’s Ambassador to the People’s Republic of China, a position he has held since March 2003

Overseas, Dr Thomas served as Ambassador to Brazil from 1992 to 1995.  Previous postings include Tokyo (1986-89) and Singapore (1979-83).

In Australia, Dr Thomas served as Deputy Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) from 2000-03.  Other positions include, Head of the Corporate Management Division (1998-00), Head of North Asia Division (1997-98) and Head of Staffing Branch (1995-97).  Dr Thomas also served as Head of the Americas and Defence Branch in the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet from 1989-91.

Educated at the University of Western Australia and the Australian National University. Dr Thomas holds a Bachelor of Arts degree with First Class Honours, and a PhD in History.  His main foreign languages are Japanese and Portuguese.

Dr Thomas was born in June 1954 in Perth, Western Australia.  He is married with three children.

Media Inquiries: Mr Downer's office 02 6277 7500 - Departmental Media Liaison 02 6261 1555


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