President His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Zayed Al Nahyan with Olaf Scholz, Chancellor of Germany and the German Economic delegation in Abu Dhabi last month Image Credit: Gulf News Archives

How would you best describe the special bond that Germany has built with the UAE over more than five decades of partnership and trust? Please elaborate while referencing bilateral trade between Germany and the UAE, with figures and stats.

Germany and the UAE definitively share a special bond. This year, we celebrate 50 years of diplomatic relations between our two countries – that is a very strong and solid foundation, a foundation that allows us to actively shape the future of our relations together. The recent visit of the German Chancellor, Olaf Scholz, to the UAE underlines the importance of our strategic partnership.

The Energy Security and Industry Accelerator was signed during the visit of the German Chancellor Olaf Scholz to the UAE on September 25. This is indeed another milestone in our partnership. It will boost flagship projects in the areas of energy security, decarbonisation and climate action and spans from renewables, hydrogen and climate protection to rather short- and medium-term needs like the supply of LNG

- Alexander Schönfelder, Ambassador of Federal Republic of Germany to the UAE

We share a lot of common goals and priorities, for example tackling climate change and supporting economic growth. Working together on global challenges has also contributed to the strong bond of trust that characterises our relationship.

Trade is important, but it reflects only one aspect of our bilateral relations – though a very important one. The UAE has been the most important economic and trade partner to Germany in the Gulf region for a long time.

As trading nations with a deep integration into the world economy both Germany and the UAE are heavily relying on open markets. The bilateral trade relations reflect our close economic partnership. German products enjoy great appreciation and trust in the UAE. This trust is built on three pillars – historic trade relationships, high perceptions of the quality and the ability to innovate.

Accordingly, in 2021, the exports of Germany to the UAE as well as German imports from the UAE increased.

But it’s not only about trade in traditional sectors – we want to further explore the potential of our economic relations and expand them, e.g. through developing new projects together and intensifying our cooperation in promising areas like digitalisation, energy efficiency or medical technology.

The energy security deal signed between Germany and the UAE last week made global headlines. What does this signify for the regional and global energy sectors as well as Germany-UAE partnership for the long term?

The Energy Security and Industry Accelerator was signed during the visit of the German Chancellor Olaf Scholz to the UAE on September 25. This is indeed another milestone in our partnership. It will boost flagship projects in the areas of energy security, decarbonisation and climate action and spans from renewables, hydrogen and climate protection to rather short- and medium-term needs like the supply of LNG.

It is another important building block in our rapidly growing partnership. For Germany, it is also an important step towards diversifying our energy sources, something that is currently high on our political agenda – for obvious reasons.

Germany shares the strong ambition with the UAE to advance the global energy transformation. In this regard, ESIA also compliments our fast-developing official energy partnership that was established in 2017.

ESIA is an important sign for the regional and global energy sectors that we need comprehensive approaches and that trusting partnerships lead to sustainable solutions.

Germany had an extremely successful run at Expo 2020 Dubai, with the German Pavilion being one of the most visited sites at the global exposition. What were the takeaways for Germany from the global event, the first of its kind in the Middle East?

The UAE proved to be a fantastic host for Expo 2020. The motto, connecting minds, creating the future describes best what the concept of Expo is all about. With the German Pavilion, we had the chance to showcase innovations made in Germany and give our visitors the feeling of being part of a global community.

The concept of our pavilion – Campus Germany – was to make people aware of the global needs by letting them engage interactively. And this concept really worked – thanks to a great pavilion and thanks to a very passionate and enthusiastic team.

We are indeed grateful to the UAE for this great and memorable event and are looking forward to another big event next year: COP 28.

Germany produces some of the world’s best engineers and scientists. How is German talent helping the UAE economy to expand and grow?

With the UAE accelerating as a knowledge-based, innovative and highly productive economy, Germany utilises its technological leadership to support this ambition.

For example, Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft, one of the leading players in the field of applied energy research in Germany, and the UAE Ministry of Energy and Infrastructure have reached an agreement to jointly conduct research projects in the energy field. These projects include integrated energy systems, sustainable energy, green and blue hydrogen technologies and infrastructure, water desalination and treatment technologies, sustainable building materials as well as the decarbonisation of transport, health care, bioeconomy and food chains.

Human resource qualification is another focal area of UAE-German cooperation. We see very promising initiatives like the Young Future Energy Leaders, Der Impuls or Tadreeb. The Tadreeb programme, for example, involved several German companies this year that have teamed up with the German Emirati Institute and the Technical University of Applied Sciences in Wildau, Germany, to offer Emirati trainees internship experiences in German companies.

The cultural ties between Germany and the UAE are deep rooted. How is this bond being strengthened further through initiatives by both nations?

Ever since the establishment of diplomatic relations between our two countries the cultural ties were an important pillar of our cooperation. In fact, the UAE is a focus country for Germany’s foreign cultural and educational policy.

Let me give you some examples:

Germany’s renowned Goethe-Institut has opened its doors in Abu Dhabi in 2006 and set up a language training centre in Dubai the year after. Officially recognised German schools are successfully operating in Abu Dhabi, Sharjah and Dubai.

Currently, there are 20 cooperation projects between universities and academic institutions in our two countries.

Germany’s participation in the Expo 2020 in Dubai was a particular success.

Germany was the only country represented by two separate pavilions; The German Pavilion – Campus Germany – was a leading contributor in the Sustainability District and the Federal State Baden-Wuerttemberg opened its house in the Opportunity District.

The German Pavilion welcomed over 2.5 million visitors, including more than 3,000 VIP delegations and hundreds of media representatives. The pavilion was an online attraction as well with around 150,000 visitors finding their way through the Virtual Expo.

This year, Germany was the Guest of Honour at the International Book Fair in Abu Dhabi. Over 30 German publishers presented their titles and participated in the programme at the fair.

Among others, various interactive programmes for children and young people were on display.

A variety of German authors participated in Germany’s cultural programme and had the opportunity to interact with counterparts from the region.

This is quite an impressive list. However, I am convinced there is more to be explored. Therefore, I would like to put an even stronger focus on our cultural relations between our countries.

Do share your personal experiences during your stay here in the UAE, your interactions with its citizens and German expats and your takeaways, as you took charge as Ambassador of Germany to the UAE.

It is a great honour for me to serve as German Ambassador to the UAE. I have arrived just recently, but you can feel immediately that the country and its people are very dynamic and keen on taking up new challenges while at the same time very friendly and hospitable. This is reflected in all my personal encounters with Emiratis that I have had so far.

My German compatriots, like all expatriates in the county, greatly contribute to the successful performance of the UAE. I am looking forward to further deepening our good and long-standing relations and to further developing the great potential we have in so many fields.

Please share a personal message to the UAE Leadership as well as German expats and UAE citizens on the occasion of German Unity Day.

Firstly, I would like to express my gratitude for the warm welcome I have had during my first weeks in the UAE.

This German Unity Day is very special to us, because, as mentioned above, this year marks the 50th anniversary of establishing diplomatic relations between the UAE and Germany. On occasions like that, we look back and reflect on not just the rich experiences we share, but we also have our eyes on the future. There is a lot to explore and potential to unlock.

Of course, this is my job as German Ambassador and the team’s job at the Embassy and the Consulate General in Dubai – and it’s a task I look very much forward to.

But I would also like to encourage everybody to actively shape and develop our bilateral relations. Everyday interactions between people are the basis for our special bond.