Last updated in November 2016
With the accreditation of ambassadors in Baghdad and Berlin on 24 and 28 August 2004, respectively, Germany resumed full diplomatic relations with Iraq. After the 1990/91 Gulf War and during the period of civilian transitional administration, they had been continued to a limited degree. Since the beginning of 2009, Germany has had a Consulate-General in Erbil, a fact that also reflects the importance of the Kurdistan-Iraq region and of the Kurdish returnees who had been living in exile in Germany. Iraq is one of the main countries of origin of the current waves of refugees entering Europe.
Germany and Iraq enjoy close and friendly relations that date back to well before the founding of the modern Iraqi state. Since the regime change in 2003, relations have increasingly intensified and are now founded on numerous mutual high-level visits. Federal Foreign Minister Steinmeier was in Baghdad and Erbil for political talks in August 2014 and December 2015. During his visit, he met with President Ma‘soum, Prime Minister Al-Abadi and the President of the Kurdistan Region in Iraq, Masoud Barzani, among others. Federal Defence Minister von der Leyen visited Baghdad and Erbil most recently in September 2016 and Federal Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development Müller travelled to the Iraqi Kurdistan Region in January 2016. Prime Minister Al-Abadi made his first official visit to Germany in early February 2015, meeting for talks with Federal Chancellor Merkel and Federal Foreign Minister Steinmeier, among others. In June 2015, he was a guest at the G7 summit in Schloss Elmau, and in early February 2016 he met with Federal Chancellor Merkel in Berlin before attending the Munich Security Conference as a guest.
Reconstruction assistance, humanitarian aid and further support measures in the current crisis
Immediately after the beginning of the war in 2003, Germany provided Iraq with extensive humanitarian aid and has since been helping the country to rebuild its economy and political institutions. Efforts focus on providing support in establishing the rule of law (in particular the judiciary), human rights, education and vocational training, culture and the re-integration of refugees and internally displaced persons through economic and reconstruction measures. Since 2003, Germany has provided Iraq with support worth well over EUR 400 million, including Germany’s share of EU assistance and its multilateral contributions (via the World Bank and the IMF). On top of this, debts amounting to EUR 4.7 billion were cancelled under a Paris Club agreement. More than 2,500 Iraqis (engineers, judges, diplomats, journalists, civil servants, etc.) have taken part in training courses. Germany supports United Nations’ and other international organisations’ projects on the ground.
Since the current crisis began, the Federal Government has provided some EUR 593 million for support measures, including approximately EUR 207 million in humanitarian aid for refugees and internally displaced persons. On 31 August 2014, the Federal Government decided, in addition to the assistance and support it has already rendered, to also provide military equipment and materiél to support the Kurdistan Regional Government in its fight against the Islamic State terrorist organisation. In coordination with the Iraqi central government, the Federal Armed Forces continue to participate in the international training mission for security forces in the Iraqi Kurdistan Region. In late January 2016, the German Bundestag voted to extend the existing training mission mandate and increase personnel resources for 2016.
The traditionally close economic ties between Germany and Iraq can be instrumental in helping reconstruct the country’s infrastructure and basic economic services, thus having a positive impact on the country’s political stabilisation. After a continuous increase in bilateral trade in recent years, German imports and exports have been stagnant, and have even declined of late owing to the uncertainty in the country. In 2014, German exports to Iraq amounted to EUR 1.1 billion and German imports from Iraq EUR 438 million. In 2015, German exports to Iraq were worth approximately EUR 1 billion, a decline of around 12 per cent.
In principle, the Iraqi market offers huge potential for German business. A particular priority for the Federal Government is reforming the vocational training sector. It is implementing a whole range of measures as part of its assistance. The Federal Government also provides support to two German Liaison Offices for Industry and Commerce in Iraq (DWI), based in Erbil and Baghdad. The close economic relations between the two countries are also reflected in the biennial meetings of the German-Iraqi Joint Economic Commission. At these meetings, which are co-chaired by the two countries’ Economics Ministers, the two sides discuss issues relating to cooperation in the economic sphere. The most recent meeting was held in Berlin in late September 2015.
Cultural and educational relations
Germany and Iraq cooperate closely in the cultural and education sectors. The overall conditions for cultural work in Iraq are difficult on account of the tense security situation. Nevertheless, over the past few years the Federal Government has succeeded in markedly stepping up its engagement there, thus continuing a long tradition of cultural cooperation with Iraq, particularly in research and higher education. Every year, some 500 Iraqi students, graduates and researchers come to Germany with assistance from the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD). The DAAD also has a programme of its own to promote cooperation between German and Iraqi universities. The DAAD has run an Information Centre in Erbil since 2011.
Another priority area of German-Iraqi cooperation is preserving cultural heritage through individual projects and cooperation arrangements of the German Archaeological Institute.
The Goethe Institute has run a German Dialogue Point in Baghdad since 2008 and has maintained a liaison office in Erbil since 2010.
Five Iraqi schools offering German instruction receive support under the Schools: Partners for the Future initiative: the German School Erbil, which was newly admitted to the programme in 2010, and four other Iraqi state schools. The German School Erbil is attended by around 125 students (from kindergarten up to and including 11th grade).