Wed, 04 October 2023
Bahrain and Germany enjoy a long-standing diplomatic partnership stretching back more than 50 years. As part of our Germany in Bahrain supplement, Bahrain This Month spoke to the German Ambassador to the Kingdom of Bahrain, HE Clemens Hach, about his diplomatic career, his first year in the Kingdom and his plans to bolster ties between the two nations.
What are the main accomplishments you have achieved as the German Ambassador to Bahrain in the past year?
The first year is always a year of learning, of getting to know people, of listening, of trying to understand the country and the region. So, if I have succeeded in something, it’s to have gained a better understanding of this country and being in a position to better explain to my colleagues in Germany about Bahrain and hopefully correct some of the misperceptions that continue to exist in Europe.
Could you tell us about the current state of diplomatic relations between Germany Bahrain?
We have excellent relations with a strong bond between our Ministries and our respective Embassies. We have yearly political consultations and a range of high-level visitors from both sides. This year alone, Undersecretary Shaikh Abdulla Al Khalifa took part in the Munich Security Conference, our Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs took part in the Manama Dialogue and various high-level MPs in Bahrain for the International Parliamentary Union with very good bilateral meetings on the margins. Finally, former Prime Minister Armin Laschet was here in February in support of the normalisation of relations with the State of Israel.
How many German nationals currently reside in Bahrain? What are the key sectors they are involved in?
According to latest figures, we have around 400 Germans residing in the country. Part of them work in the Eastern Provinces of Saudi Arabia, but for those in Bahrain, there are a few in the medical sector, the hospitality sector in management positions, teaching and banking.
What are the current trade figures between Bahrain and Germany?
We have a stable trade exchange at around USD700 million, with a growing number of exports from Bahrain to Germany, especially aluminium. We are also seeing more interest on the German side in petrochemical products which will be produced by the new refinery in Sitra.
What initiatives or programmes are in place to promote cultural exchange and cooperation between the two countries?
We have approximately 200 Bahrainis studying in Germany, and we also have German courses in Bahrain organised by the Embassy that have around 400 participants a year. Of course, we pursue numerous cultural initiatives too. On October 17, we will have a German band called JinJim performing in the framework of the International Music Festival. We will also have an interesting German jazz band, Sweet Simones, performing at the Jazz Fest in November.
We’ve also had an interesting development in the sports sector, with a Bahraini agency organising a trip of Bahraini football players to train in Germany with German clubs, something that we hope will succeed and bear fruit.
Can you discuss any advancements made in the areas of education and skills development between Germany and Bahrain in the past year?
We have had some preliminary contacts between the German Agency for Technical Cooperation and the relevant institutions in Bahrain, to better understand where Bahrain is going in terms of skills development and training, and where German experience can be useful to the Kingdom.
What steps have you taken to promote sustainability and support Bahrain’s efforts towards renewable energy during your time as the German Ambassador?
We have a very good relationship with the Supreme Council at a technical level regarding this matter. We also had a very interesting exposition and panel discussion on energy transition at the University of Bahrain earlier this year, which helped us share experience and define areas of common interest and need for action.
We also have very good cooperation at the political level, for instance with the regular participation of Bahrain in the Berlin Energy Transition Dialogue and of course in the various international forums on climate change.
How has the first year as the Ambassador for Germany to Bahrain been? What has changed since you were first appointed?
It has been a fantastic year and we have been incredibly well received. It’s been a beautiful year for me, my family and as a professional. I’m very grateful for the reception and the opportunities we have in this bilateral relationship.
It has been a year of many changes. Of course, with the second year of the Russian war of aggression on Ukraine, it is provoking huge changes in Europe. But the region is also incredibly dynamic with the reintegration of Syria into the Arab League, the thaw in relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran, and the incredibly dynamic development of the relationship of the GCC with Israel. So, a lot of interesting and challenging developments are happening, which all contribute to keep the life of a diplomat very interesting!
Have there been any challenges you have faced in your role and how have you overcome them?
I guess the main challenge is really about some of the misperceptions that there are in Europe about this region and possibly also in this region about Europe. So I guess our work is really about trying first to thoroughly understand and then to explain the realities of our countries to the respective audiences and act as an interpreter between the two worlds.
Looking forward, what are your plans and goals for the upcoming year and how do you envision strengthening ties further?
Aside from the cultural events mentioned earlier, I also have a couple of priorities that I have set myself to further develop the relationship. In the economic sector, I want to see more trade and engagement, and we will have a strong German presence in the Health Fair in December with a high-level visitor from Germany, which will be a good opportunity for the medical and health sector. We will also have a high-level delegation at the Manama Dialogue again.
One area of particular interest to me, and something I have been working on over the last year, is to increase the German participation in the Combined Maritime Force that Bahrain is hosting and that is ensuring maritime security in the Gulf and Indian Ocean. And I think we are on track to contribute additionally mainly through measures of training.
Do you have anything else to add?
I am grateful for the opportunity to say a few words about our priorities here as an embassy in Bahrain, and I’d like to extend my thanks to our friends and partners in Bahrain, in the Government and in the business community, who have supported us in our work and made us feel so welcome.