“Direct connection between Berlin and Baghdad”

17.12.2018 - Speech

Address by Foreign Minister Heiko Maas in “The Station” in Baghdad, Iraq

Never before have I been as close to Paradise as this – at least if we give credence to old European maps.

The famous German geographer Georg Mercator recorded Paradise very close to here on one of his world maps. And he was not the only one. In Europe in the early modern era it was regarded as general knowledge that Paradise was located between the Euphrates and the Tigris.

Paradise and Iraq have not been associated with each other for some time. The headlines in recent decades have usually been rather different.

That being the case, looking around here makes me all the happier. I have to admit that I was a little surprised when I came in. For this place does not correspond to the normal image people, including me, have of Iraq.

Hardly anyone would expect to see a co-working space like this one. That gives me hope for the future.

But above all, you give me hope – young, well educated people who love your country, want to achieve something and set things in motion with your ideas and creativity.

I was therefore eager to gain an impression of what is happening here and form my own picture of the country as a whole. I am delighted to find that so much is very different from how we often imagine it.

You can be proud of your country. The journey up to this point was undoubtedly not an easy one. I am also here to show you that Germany will continue to stand alongside you as a partner.

Through humanitarian assistance, through stabilisation efforts and through our soldiers.

And we intend to strengthen our cultural cooperation in order to promote reconciliation and preserve Iraq’s unique cultural heritage for future generations.

But we want much more than that. We want the Iraqi people to be in a position to follow their own path. The path leading to an inclusive Iraq, in which all citizens, whether Sunnis, Shiites, Kurds, Christians, Yazidis, men or women, young or old, can find their niche.

Ladies and gentlemen,
I have come here from Kuwait today. The way in which relations between your two countries have developed is a shining example for the entire region, which is torn apart by political, religious and economic differences.

The example of Kuwait and Iraq shows that conflicts can be overcome when there is a willingness to engage in serious dialogue. That, too, can be a message from Iraq for the future.

Ladies and gentlemen,
The challenges your country faces are as great as the potential it holds.

In Iraq in the 1950s, the most famous architects of their day built landmarks of the modern era. Baghdad was a cosmopolitan metropolis, a melting pot for diverse influences.

I can sense the spirit of that time here, in this place, which has been built by people like you virtually from nothing.

Iraq needs enterprising people who believe in their country’s potential. German enterprises, too, have recognised this potential for some time.

Yet it is also clear that economic growth needs the right framework conditions – as I have emphasised today to our partners in the political sphere.

Implementing courageous reforms and resolutely fighting corruption are the prerequisites for attracting private investors. Here, too, we will support Iraq.

Ladies and gentlemen,
Something else immediately struck me when I arrived here. I can see many more women here than I saw yesterday and have seen today in all the political talks I have held. And I think that’s a good thing.

And I find it encouraging, for it goes without saying that equal rights and equal opportunities for women and men must be something we can take for granted in a modern country. Whether in Berlin or in Baghdad. Whether at the peace negotiating tables or in reconstruction – women belong there. For peace cannot succeed if half of the population is excluded.

Ladies and gentlemen,
You, the young generation, are, more than anyone else, the ones who can shape the future of your country with your drive and determination.

So I appeal to you to stay committed! Follow your own path. Work to ensure that your country remains stable, dynamic and modern.

A place like this shows that this does not have to be a dream of a far-off future. And even though a place like this cannot, of course, in itself be the Paradise on earth I referred to at the beginning, it is a start. One of many steps forward.

Now I’m eager to hear what steps you want to take. Where your interests lie, what your goals are. And how we can perhaps support you along this path. Your energy also needs to give momentum to your country.

I look forward to learning from you in the course of our discussion.

Thank you very much.


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