Kuwait and Germany – United by a close friendship

Farewell Ambassador Karlfried Bergner

Having completed a very successful tenure in Kuwait, German Ambassador H.E. Karlfried Bergner will be returning back home in July with lots of fond memories and accomplishments to his credit. The ever smiling and affable ambassador has since his arrival to Kuwait in 2016, not only further strengthened the excellent bilateral relations between the two countries but also built remarkable bonds of friendship between the two peoples.

Speaking to members of the media during a farewell luncheon hosted by the embassy, Ambassador Bergner spoke on wide ranging issues and touched upon  some of his accomplishments.

“Kuwait has been a very rewarding experience as one meets Kuwaitis and foreigners from all walks of life, and the Kuwaiti hospitality has been remarkable in every way,” Ambassador Bergner pointed out.

During his tenure there have also been three ministerial visits and many high level exchanges between the two countries.  Describing the relations between Germany and Kuwait as very good and very strong, he praised Kuwait’s policies and humanitarian efforts and said Germany supports Kuwait’s mediation in the Gulf crises.

“Kuwait plays a very constructive and positive role in the region and that is why we are intensifying cooperation,” the ambassador stated, and added that Kuwait is a stabilizing factor in the region; it has always tried to mediate and de-escalate and continues to do so. For example, with regards to the ongoing rift within the GCC, Kuwait pursues a value-based foreign policy and supports multilateral approaches within the framework of the UN.

“Similar to Germany, Kuwait is also heavily engaged in humanitarian assistance within the region and beyond, a fact that has been recognized through the nomination of His Highness the Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah as ‘Humanitarian Leader’ by the UN. Kuwait also has a soft power that goes far beyond its size or population and this makes it an important diplomatic partner in the region,” he further added.

Germany and Kuwait are both elected non-permanent members in the Security Council and have very close cooperation and coordination on several issues from international disputes to humanitarian and development issues.

“We are in the process of setting up an office for the German Association for International Cooperation that will enhance issues of humanitarian and international cooperation, both issues dear to Kuwaiti government,” the ambassador disclosed.

The close friendship between the two countries is also reflected in the growing trade relationship. Ambassador Bergner revealed that in the coming months a delegate from the German Chamber of Commerce was going to be stationed in Kuwait and that this would further help trade between the two countries. Germany exports approximately $1.6 billion worth of goods and services to Kuwait and investment from Kuwait exceed $40 billion from both KIA and private investors.

“Germany is the largest European exporter of goods to Kuwait and the process to further enhance and increase these numbers would continue,” the ambassador stated, adding that efforts to organize investment seminars and  to showcase investment opportunities in Germany will certainly continue so as  to promote Kuwait as a stable and wealthy market to German companies.

The ambassador also pointed out that Germany has been a preferred destination for Kuwaiti travellers and the embassy issues almost 60,000 visas annually mostly for tourism purposes. The embassy has also changed the outsourcing visa service provider to further enhance the services. During the peak summer rush the demand escalates and though the embassy tries its best to keep up, limitations of space and resource means that we are unable to drastically increase the processing during this period.

On tasks that he would like to see taken forward, Ambassador Bergner noted that he would like to increase the number of Kuwaiti students in Germany.  “It is a strategic advantage to have a certain number of Kuwaitis who studied in Germany, hopefully learnt the language, and know the German culture,” he said, adding that such a pool of Kuwaitis would be instrumental in strengthening bilateral relations.

Recognising the challenges to this path, in particular the language, the embassy has started an initiative that will hopefully create a German ecosystem in Kuwait at various levels. These include strengthening language training not only in schools but also in institutions of higher education. In addition, there are plans to increase the post graduate and doctoral students  in Germany because many of these programmes can be done in English and this will help to develop new academic ties between Germany and Kuwait, besides, high quality education in German is free of charge, the ambassador pointed out.

In the three years in Kuwait Ambassador Bergner has endeared himself to a wide cross section of people from government officials to diplomats to the business community, members of the media and his colleagues.  In conclusion ambassador praised the diversity, open mindedness, the accessibility to the authorities, the very warm friendship of people of Kuwait and the great variety of food! “My wife and I leave behind some fondest memories and we thank everyone for the excellent treatment meted out to us during our tenure here,” ambassador remarked.

By Reaven D’Souza
Managing Editor