UAE and Germany embrace future trends with high ambitions and there are many fields where we can further strengthen our cooperation, says Ernst Peter Fischer, Germany’s ambassador to the UAE
How would you sum up the current relations between Germany and the UAE?
The bilateral relations between Germany and the UAE have developed very well since the establishment of diplomatic relations in May 1972. The founding father of the UAE, the late Shaikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan, had a very close relationship with Germany and visited the European nation several times. As a consequence, we established a strategic partnership with the UAE in 2004.
The visit of His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, to Germany last year did not only mark the 15th anniversary of this strategic partnership but also upgraded our relations to a new level. The joint statement he signed with German Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel during his visit to Berlin set the framework for our future cooperation.
Both countries embrace future trends with high ambitions. I think there are many fields where we can further strengthen our cooperation. These include digitalisation and smart manufacturing, the internet of things (IoTs), artificial intelligence, as well as enhancing the global energy transition. As an example, I would like to mention the Emirati-German task force on the fourth industrial revolution (4IR). The task force was launched in July this year and will serve as a networking forum to leverage links between businesses, R&D bodies, academics and government bodies in the field of technology, digital connectivity and artificial intelligence.
What are your focus areas in strengthening relationship with the UAE?
In 2017, Germany and the UAE signed an energy partnership, resulting in numerous high-level and working-level visits, seminars and studies around renewable energy, energy efficiency, mobility, and new technologies. Hydrogen is one of the central themes of these events at the moment. In my opinion the recovery from the pandemic has to be green and therefore, the role of our energy partnership will become even more significant.
But our relationship is much broader and does not only focus on the economy. We have three German schools in the UAE and in 2019 the first Emirati graduated from the German International School in Abu Dhabi with the Abitur. The schools and also the Goethe-Institut in Abu Dhabi help us to build cultural bridges between our two countries through the future generations. Moreover, we had the privilege to witness performances of first-class ensembles from Germany in Abu Dhabi such as the Bayreuther Festspiele, and I am very happy about Germany being the guest of honour at the 2021 edition of Abu Dhabi International Book Fair.
Last but not least, there is an ongoing close exchange on international politics between Germany and the UAE. The intense exchange between the policy planning departments of the Federal Foreign Office and the UAE’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation about two weeks ago is just one example.
Can you provide up-to-date figures of exports and imports between the two nations? What are the major products being traded?
The UAE is Germany´s most important trading partner in the region. German exports to the UAE totalled $9.7 billion (Dh35.6 billion) in 2019, while its imports from the UAE were valued at $1.2 billion. Aluminium products are the UAE’s main export to Germany, while Germany’s main exports to the UAE are motor vehicles, machinery and electrical goods. Undeniably, the goods traded reflect the UAE’s love affair with safe and fast cars and the appreciation for finer things in life. It is no surprise that the main food products the UAE imports from Germany are chocolate and candies.
Germany has always been a preferred travel destination for UAE residents for leisure and health. How does Germany plan to bring tourists back to the nation after the pandemic?
The coronavirus is an enormous challenge for all of us, especially for tourism. We can’t wait to welcome tourists from the UAE back to Germany again, but for the moment, we have to be patient and join our forces to prevent the further spread of the virus. Nevertheless, the UAE and Germany have been reacting quite effectively so far and I am convinced that we will manage to re-establish tourism between our two countries again and even stronger, once the pandemic is under control.
What are your plans for the German community in the UAE? How many Germans are living in the UAE and how many have gone back home since the outbreak of Covid-19?
The German community in the UAE plays a significant role in our bilateral relations as they have developed personal relations and have built personal bridges between these two countries. Before the outbreak of the pandemic, about 15,000 Germans lived in the UAE and to our knowledge not too many of them have left the UAE so far. Not only have the UAE become their second home, but since the outbreak of the pandemic the German community feels safe here as we have confidence in the preventive measures taken by the UAE authorities.
Are you expecting any high-profile visits from Germany later this year?
After quite a few high-ranking political delegations from Germany at the beginning of this year on the occasions of Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week, World Urban Forum and at important exhibitions such as Arab Health and Gulf Food, travel has come to an almost complete standstill since the outbreak of Covid-19, making it impossible for German delegations to visit the UAE. Nevertheless, our political leaders continued their close cooperation virtually and via phone. Several phone calls between Federal Chancellor Merkel and Shaikh Mohammad Bin Zayed during the last couple of months are just one example for this. The latest visit of German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas to Abu Dhabi in August was the first of its kind since the outbreak of the pandemic and has underpinned the high-level bilateral cooperation between the two nations, as he had some in-depth discussions with Shaikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation in the UAE.
Finally, how does the embassy plan to mark the National Day this year?
Unfortunately, we won’t be able to mark our National Day with receptions in Abu Dhabi and Dubai this year because of the ongoing pandemic. Therefore, we decided to prepare a virtual journey through the German-Emirati relations to celebrate the 30th anniversary of German Unity. I would hereby like to invite everyone to join us on this virtual journey through the history, the present and the future of German-Emirati relations, today at 6pm on the Facebook page of the German Embassy. I don’t want to reveal too much about the event, but I can promise you some great impressions and perspectives you might have not known about yet.
Moreover our guest of honour Dr Sultan Al Jaber, UAE Minister of Industry and Advanced Technology, will share his thoughts on German-Emirati relations. So make sure to join us today at 6pm.
‘Things should look different next year, and we are expecting an interesting Expo in Dubai’
Holger Mahnicke, Germany’s Consul General in Dubai, talks about consular responses during Covid-19 and how his team helped the community during the crisis
The year 2020 took a different path than what we expected. We should have been actively preparing for the opening of Dubai Expo by now. But the Covid-19 crisis has changed the focus of work for the German Consulate General in Dubai. After the closure of the airports in the UAE on March 25, our priority had been to repatriate German citizens stuck in the UAE and in the transit areas of the airports in Abu Dhabi and Dubai. We organised three repatriation flights in close cooperation with German tour operators and were about to conclude preparations of a repatriation flight with the German government, when Emirates Airlines started to offer one-way flights to Frankfurt earlier in April.
When the commercial flight became available, we stopped our efforts and shifted the focus to the consular and visa services. We organised ourselves in a way that despite all restrictions due to Covid-19, we were able to provide all possible services to both the German community in Dubai as well as Emiratis in need of an exemption from the travel restrictions. Now we work in two teams, which gives us the necessary flexibility to remain available to our clients amid all disruptions. Unfortunately, things have become complicated and most cases require more time than usual. Most probably this will not change anytime soon. If infection rates continue to increase, entry restrictions and travel warnings will not be lifted.
However, things should look different next year, and we are expecting an interesting Expo in Dubai. The German pavilion — Campus Germany — will focus on the subtheme of sustainability. Germany has a reputation for having produced scores of new ideas and approaches in this area. Germany’s energy revolution, the Energiewende, has even become a global benchmark. The pavilion is organised like a university where you start with the enrolment and finish with a graduation. The major idea is to get all visitors engaged with a number of interactive exhibits, including through special displays for children. A highlight will be our Nation Day at the Expo, scheduled for November 29, 2021, just a few days before the golden jubilee of the UAE.