Last updated in September 2015
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. There are currently some 81,000 Iraqis living in Germany. Since 2003, several thousand former Iraqi exiles have returned to Iraq.
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.
In August 2014, Federal Foreign Minister Steinmeier was in Baghdad and Erbil for political talks. 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. In Erbil, he also met with internally displaced Christians and Yazidis. Federal Defence Minister von der Leyen and Federal Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development Müller travelled to Baghdad and Erbil in September and October 2014, respectively. 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, he was a guest at the G7 summit in Schloss Elmau.
Reconstruction assistance, humanitarian aid and further support measures in the current crisis
Immediately after 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 more than EUR 150 million for support measures, including nearly EUR 85 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 terrorist organisation ISIS. In coordination with the Iraqi central government, the Federal Armed Forces continue to participate in the international training mission for security forces in the Region of Kurdistan-Iraq.
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 slightly of late owing to the uncertainty in the country. In 2014, German exports to Iraq were worth EUR 1.2 billion and German imports from Iraq EUR 438 million. The Iraqi market also 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.
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 higher education through university partnerships and the awarding of scholarships by the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD). In this connection, projects were selected at five German higher education institutions that were designed, with the help of Iraqi partners, to create a framework for sustainable cooperation. A total of more than 1,100 students and academics have participated in exchange programmes and projects. The DAAD has run an Information Centre in Erbil since 2011.
Another priority area of German-Iraqi cooperation is cultural heritage preservation through individual projects and cooperation arrangements of the German Archaeological Institute.
The Goethe Institute has had a German Dialogue Point at the University of Baghdad since 2008 and since 2010 has maintained a liaison office in Erbil serving the whole of Iraq.
Four 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 three (??) other Iraqi state schools. The German School Erbil was already attended by some 200 children in the 2014/15 school year (from kindergarten up to and including 8th grade).
Iraq Horizons 2015: Sow Today, Reap Tomorrow is a joint initiative of the Federal Foreign Office, the Goethe Institute, the Association of German Chambers of Commerce and Industry (DIHK) and the Federation of German Industries (BDI) that aims to strengthen German-Iraqi economic relations and intercultural exchange by promoting young Iraqi professionals.
Baghdad was the Arab Capital of Culture from March 2013 to March 2014.