Ever since the UAE and Germany engaged in a strategic partnership in 2004, bilateral relations between the two countries have been thriving. Today, in 2010, after more than half a decade of this strategic partnership, what are the major areas of cooperation between Germany and the UAE?
It is an open secret that the Gulf region is of major geostrategic importance to us and that the UAE do have a fundamental role when it comes to promoting peace and stability in the region and beyond. Therefore Germany does have a vital interest in close relations with the UAE.
In 2004 we established our strategic partnership as a comprehensive platform for cooperation in the political, economic, cultural and educational sector. It stands for our commitment to a regular and substantial exchange of views.
In 2010, the political dialogue is closer than ever between our two countries. This year, Chancellor Merkel, Foreign Minister Westerwelle, Prime Minister Wulff of Lower Saxony – now Federal President of Germany – visited the UAE, Foreign Minister Abdullah met again with Foreign Minister Westerwelle several weeks ago in Berlin while attending the first regional conference of the UAE ambassadors to European countries in the German capital.
However, our strategic partnership stretches beyond politics. In particular, it also includes vibrant economic relations, which form the bedrock of our bilateral ties. Around 10.000 Germans live in the UAE, most of them businessmen, representing at least 750 German companies. Moreover, thousands of UAE visitors flock to Germany every summer. This shows that our strategic partnership is well-rounded and based on multi-dimensional mutual relations.
In your opinion, what is the most valuable gain for Germany from working increasingly closer together with the UAE? Which aspects of the political cooperation with the UAE benefit Germany the most in the field of foreign policy? What do you think are the most pressing issues for the Gulf region at the moment and how does the partnership between the UAE and Germany influence this?
As I said, the Gulf Region is in the focus of international politics, the UAE an essential partner for peace and stability. Germany and the UAE co-operate closely to that end. In our Strategic Partnership we have agreed to hold regular political consultations. We also undertake joint efforts to foster stabilisation efforts in countries like Iraq, Afghanistan and Yemen: Jointly we have supported police training programs in Iraq, infrastructure projects in Afghanistan and stabilisation efforts in the “Friends of Yemen” process where our two countries co-chair one of two working groups. And finally, we are in close contact over the question of the Iranian nuclear program. Just days after the Security Council had passed the new sanctions resolution 1929, the UAE were the first arabic country to announce the full implementation of those sanctions – a decision which we welcomed explicitly.
How is cultural cooperation between the UAE and Germany being developed? With the help of which institutions do you drive relations in this field?
I am very pleased with the progress we made in our cultural relations in recent years: In 2006, we founded a regional office of the Goethe Institute and of the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) in Abu Dhabi. The Goethe Institute organises cultural events and offers high-quality language training for Emiratis and people of other nationalities. Furthermore, we have three German schools in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Sharjah, which enjoy great support by the UAE government. We also extended our co-operation in the fields of higher education and science. With the help of the DAAD, Emirati students go to Germany to study in German universities. When Chancellor Merkel visited the UAE in May 2010, a Memorandum of Understanding on the establishment of a „German Graduate School of Logistics“ in Abu Dhabi was signed.
Economic ties represent one of the main areas of cooperation between the UAE and Germany. In which economic fields do you see the largest potential for collaboration?
The UAE is Germany's most important trading partner in the Arab world and there are a great number of substantial cross-border investments. Roughly half of the German investments in the Arab Peninsula are directed to the United Emirates, particularly in sectors like transport, logistics, health and construction. We also strongly benefit from UAE investments in Germany, namely in the car, steel and computer chip industries, as well as from investments in small and medium-sized enterprises. So investments are not a one way street.
In order to make our economic relations even more thriving, politics has to create the best framework conditions. That is why a Memorandum of Understanding on small and medium-sized enterprises cooperation was signed by our two countries when Chancellor Merkel visited the UAE. And that is why Foreign Minister Westerwelle and Foreign Minister Abdullah recently signed a double taxation agreement in Berlin.
In the field of renewable energies, for instance, Germany is widely considered a world leader. With projects like MASDAR being developed, what is the German involvement in the renewables sector in the UAE, and how are you assisting German companies in bringing their technology and related expertise into the UAE?
German companies are indeed among the world leaders in technology for renewable energies and thus also present in the UAE. The MASDAR Initiative which you mentioned is a good example: many German companies, large global players as well as hidden champions, have shown great interest in participating in this leading project in the field of renewable energies. Equally interested in MASDAR and similar projects is Germany`s “Fraunhofer Gesellschaft”, Europe's largest application-oriented research organisation.
We do assist and advise interested companies via the Consulate General in Dubai as well as the German Embassy in Abu Dhabi and the German Emirati Joint Council for Industry & Commerce created in May 2009.
And we also promote the field of renewable energies together with our UAE partners: The headquarter of IRENA, the international renewable energy agency, is in Abu Dhabi, the IRENA research center is located in Bonn. This is a virtual prove for our common engagement to make IRENA become a success.
The GCC countries and the European Union have been discussing a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) for many years now, yet no framework has been formulated to date. When do you believe the FTA will finally be concluded?
The negotiations have advanced well in most areas, so I hope that the GCC and the EU will reach an agreement in the very near future as it is of great importance to both sides.
Where do you see the strategic partnership between Germany and the UAE in ten years from now? What are the three most promising fields for cooperation in the near future?
I am confident that our strategic partnership will continue to be the right tool in order to enhance our relations. We should use it for extending projects that promote peace and stability. We should work for more respective investments, namely in future industries like renewable energies. And we should keep in mind that education and science form the basis for future prosperity. Support for a knowledge-based economy should therefore become an even more visible part of our strategic partnership.
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