Foreigners Feel at Home in KSA, Says German Envoy

by shariff mohammed | Nov 02, 2017

Under the current leadership Saudi Arabia is becoming an ever more attractive place to live in, observed German ambassador Mr. Dieter W. Haller saying that foreigners do feel at home in the Kingdom. He was speaking at a reception hosted by him in Riyadh to mark the German Unity Day.  Prince Faisal Bin Bandar Bin Abdulaziz, Governor of Riyadh, attended the reception as a guest of honor. Also present on the occasion were more than 800 dignitaries, businesspeople, academics, artists as well as members of the German community and the Saudi civil society. 

The German diplomat underlined the importance of people to people contacts for building a lasting friendship between Saudi Arabia and Germany. In this context, he said: “I would also like to thank my fellow countrymen who are actively engaged in the Kingdom in whatever area of their professions. They all contribute to the German footprint in this county”.

He extended an invitation to Saudis to travel to Germany and explore her cities and culture. “We have seen tens of thousands of Saudis travelling to Germany and finding out for themselves that the united Germany is a culturally diverse country”, explained the ambassador.

Earlier on the eve of the German Unity Day, Mr. W. Haller noted that Chancellor Angela Merkel’s recent visit to the Kingdom marked a further tightening of bilateral relations between the two countries. It was already her third journey to the Kingdom since taking office. “Her visits has reflected the growing role of Saudi Arabia on the world stage, opened up new economic and security cooperation and paved the way for a strategic approach on the key challenges of today’s world,” he said. Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman and Chancellor Merkel reiterated their commitment to combatting terror, both through fighting terrorist organizations like Daesh (so-called IS) and also by addressing the root causes of terror, for instance, through boosting development in impoverished countries.

In an interview with the Saudi Commerce & Economic Review, Mr. Hans-Christian von Reibnitz, Deputy Head of Mission at German Embassy said that  a number of important agreements were signded between Saudi Arabia and Germany during the recent visit of Chancelleor Merkel to the Kingdom. Among them, providing vocational training for young Saudis via the Technical and Vocational Training Corporation (TVTC) or large German investments in the field of information technology – to name a few projects - will have a great impact. In addition, a MoU to develop sustainable industries was co-signed by the Minister of Energy, Industry and Mineral Resources, Khalid Bin Abdulaziz Al-Faleh and Siemens CEO Joe Kaeser.

On the defense side, an agreement was signed between the Saudi Defense Ministry and the German Military Academy to train Saudi military personnel in different courses in Germany, pointed out Mr. Reibnitz.

“In the field of security, a declaration of intent was signed which will broaden our common training efforts for the Saudi police in the field of border protection to intensify specialized training for Saudi policewomen and to extend our cooperation to other fields like air security and transport operations. Our common fight against poverty and underdevelopment as well as against the root causes of worldwide terrorism will be strengthened via enhanced cooperation in third countries. The Saudi Fund for Development (SFD) and the German Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development will realize common aid projects in third countries like Mali and Niger,” noted Mr. Reibnitz.

Echoing the views of Mr. Reibnitz., Mr. Haller said: “Our joint efforts in fragile countries in Africa demonstrate: we are living up to our international responsibilities. That Saudi German cooperation goes far beyond the bilateral relations is apparent in the timing of Merkel’s visit in the run-up to the G20 summit in Hamburg, which underlined the importance of a multilateral approach to facing global challenges and saw a number of important outcomes ranging from the commitment to the rules-based international trading system of the WTO, over the endorsement of the G20 Africa Partnership, to the renewal of a commitment to fight terrorism including its financing”.

For its upcoming G20 presidency, Ambassador Haller congratulated the Kingdom. “Saudi Arabia’s hosting the summit in 2020 reflects the growing importance of the Kingdom as a player in global governance. I wish the Kingdom the best of success for its G20 presidency,” he mentioned.

Economic relations between Saudi Arabia and Germany reflect the modernization and transformation of the Saudi economy. The speed at which Saudi Arabia is overhauling its infrastructure has created a strong demand for machinery — a traditional strength of the German economy. The years from 2010 to 2015 have seen a considerable increase in bilateral trade. Exports from Saudi Arabia to Germany grew from 643 million euro in 2010 to 873 million euro in 2015. Similarly, imports from Germany to Saudi Arabia grew from 5.8 billion euro to 9.9 billion euro over the same period. In 2016 exports from Saudi Arabia amounted to 622 million euro and imports from Germany to Saudi Arabia accounted for 7.3 billion euro. In 2016, imports as well as exports contracted due to the postponement of important investment and infrastructure projects. The figures from the first and second quarters of this year show that bilateral trade is stabilizing and even picking up again. In the first six months of this year Saudi Arabia’s imports from Germany amounted to 3.4 billion euro compared with 3.8 billion euro for the same period in 2016. Saudi Arabia’s exports to Germany amounted to 344 million euro during the period. This is about 80% more than in the same period in 2016 (191 million euro) and points towards a more balanced trade.

In the long run, the current trade based relationship is likely to be complemented by an investment partnership. Already now, there is a wide variety of German investments in the Kingdom. Siemens has established a gas turbine plant in Dammam and the Linde gas facility in Jubail II is Linde’s biggest foreign investment. But there are also longstanding investments from small and medium enterprises, like the KSB pump plant or the Fuchs lubricants factory. In fact small and medium enterprises are the backbone of the German economy and in many cases these hidden champions are world beaters for their highly special products. Their expertise in energy efficiency, renewable energies, manufacturing and digitalization will be a key to a successful implementation of the Vision 2030.

Meanwhile, the German-Saudi Arabian Liaison Office for Economic Affairs (GESALO) has been playing a key role in strengthening bilateral trade relations between the two countries for almost 40 years. As a member of the world-wide network of the German Chambers of Commerce Abroad, GESALO serves German and Saudi Arabian companies by providing a broad range of services such as  entry information, trade fairs marketing, business partner search, mediation, visa and translation services. Furthermore, one of the key activities is organizing delegation trips in various fields. From Nov. 11 to 15, for instance, German small and medium enterprises will be looking for market potentials during a five-day trip to Riyadh with a focus on water and wastewater management. GESALO is proud that it has served numerous companies and business people over the last decades.

German-Saudi cultural relations have reached a new and important milestone in the last year with the opening of the new building of the Goethe Institute in Umm Al Hamam in November. On its new premises the language training center offers an even broader range of language courses on all levels — from beginners to advanced. At the same time the institute is working hard to stage a diverse and inspiring cultural program consisting of exhibitions, concerts and lectures. In September a “Night of Music and Culture” marked the opening of a new season of cultural events. On Oct. 13 a concert with six musicians from Germany took place, showcasing traditional Bavarian folk music.

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