Earlier this year, the Kingdom of Bahrain and the Republic of Germany celebrated the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between the two countries. We speak to the newly appointed German Ambassador to Bahrain, HE Clemens Hach, who brings a wealth of worldly experience with him.
His Excellency Clemens Hach, who recently presented his credentials to His Majesty King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, has an extensive diplomatic career spanning over 20 years. The Kingdom of Bahrain is his sixth posting in a foreign country following his service in Latin America, the United States, East Africa and at the headquarters of the German Federal Foreign Office as the Head of the Stabilisation Divison.
“This is my first post in the Middle East which to me is somewhat like coming home since I am, by education, a Middle Eastern guy. I studied Middle Eastern history and politics so it feels a lot like coming to a region that I have always been interested in after 20 years working in others,” says HE Hach. “After working in several countries, you learn to understand their specificities and approach it with great openness. I hope that this experience will help me learn about Bahrain, understand what our common priorities are and therefore form the priorities for my work.”
WORKING FOR PEACE
At the Stabilisation Division, HE had significant achievements when working on the Middle East (mainly Iraq), Afghanistan and numerous countries in West Africa. “The Stabilisation Division is something unique that the German Federal Foreign Office has that very few other countries have. The Division works on crisis context with a political goal through peacemaking for which we had a very good tool set at our disposal,” HE states.
“The main priority was working on the civilian complement to security-led counter-terrorism operations. We had two main tools to help with our goals: peace building tools such as mediation, working on social cohesion, and what we call stabilisation. To explain stabilisation, once a place was freed from terrorist rule we would help the state come back as soon as possible with public services, electricity, water, education, civilian security and justice,” HE explains.
Through this approach, in the framework of the Counter-Daesh Coalition, and being led by the Iraqi government with support from the United Nations, the international community was quite successful in their fight against Daesh in Iraq. In 2015, stabilisation work was able to help bring back internally displaced people within months of liberation. This included millions of people in cities like Ramadi or Mosul.
“The work was short term in the sense that you have to be very quick and work hand-in-hand with the security forces to make sure that there is no vacuum between the security intervention and the civilian intervention, but long term in its effect because the idea was to create a foundation for development and restoration of the social tissue in those areas,” HE states.
HE believes that the Kingdom of Bahrain is a model for the region. “First of all, I would like to express how impressed I was by His Majesty and the guidance he is giving to Bahrain not least on religious freedom and tolerance,” HE says, adding that he believes the visit of His Holiness Pope Francis is testament to this.
“The reform process that Bahrain has undergone over the past years and the elections this year is something that we also highly appreciate in Germany,” HE says.
Regarding priorities, the most important thing for HE the Ambassador in addition to the good bilateral relations is working together on international issues. “Bahrain has taken a very firm stance regarding the respect of international law and sovereignty where Ukraine is concerned. This is something we very much value. It is imperative that all parties around the world comply with the international laws that rule the way countries should behave in the international context,” HE says.
“Germany and Bahrain are very like-minded when it comes to the respect of international law and territorial integrity. This is a field where we can further strengthen our cooperation, between Germany and Bahrain, the EU and GCC, and at the international level with the UN which is definitely one of my priorities,” HE adds.
Between 500 and 600 Germans, including several doctors and university teachers, are believed to be residing in the Kingdom of Bahrain. Some of these individuals residing in Bahrain work in the Eastern Province of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
The Kingdom of Bahrain and Germany have long-standing relations with 50 years of diplomatic and trade relations. Leading German companies which have invested in Bahrain include DHL with their Menahub, BASF, SMS, RMA and others who are producing in Bahrain for the GCC and international markets. This is in addition to large and smaller German companies which provide their services.
“Germany has always been among the top EU trading partners of Bahrain, and the figures have been increasing over the years. We’re now at over EUR620 million in trade between Bahrain and Germany. I think this is a very good picture but we are sure that we can do more. We are obviously looking at the development plans of Bahrain in the tourism, financial and clean energy sectors, and trying to tap into the potential of German technology,” HE states. “As the Euro is currently very low, German products are cheaper than they have been in a long time, so we hope that this too will strengthen relations.”
Germany is known worldwide for its high-quality motoring brands which have become the most popular product imports. “I’m very glad to see that Bahrain is no exception to this trend and we continue to see very nice German cars on the streets here,” HE says.
“While this is one of our main products, there are a wealth of other products that are less known especially in the industrial sector, chemical industry, steel industry, and in logistics. In terms of services, for instance, the company SAP lends their services here through a software which you may find at any bank or public administration office,” HE adds.
Germany is known worldwide for its higher education programmes, which have the added benefit of free tuition for international students too. The German education system is largely based on public education with several public schools and universities across the country. “This is a specificity of the German education system that we cherish very much because it is also a contribution to social cohesion in our country,” HE says. “We also have private university but the standard of education is not lower at the public universities and hence many people opt for them.”
Around 50 to 60 Bahrainis visit Germany to study every year with medicine and engineering degrees being a prime choice. In terms of international students, learning German is encouraged as most people speak the language and a majority of the university courses are in German although international curricula are also offered.
“Those wishing to pursue an education in Germany are welcome to look into the German learning programme that the embassy organises. Students should also keep in mind that they need to graduate with a high school diploma which qualifies them for studying in Germany, and then apply for a visa in a timely manner, preferably months prior to when they intend to go to university,” advises HE.
“Life in Germany is also comparatively inexpensive with low university fees which often includes public transportation, so we are positive that they will have a great experience,” HE adds.
To conclude His Excellency expressed his gratitude towards Bahrain and its people for the warm welcome that he and his family have received. “This is something that I understand Bahrain is rightfully famous for - being a welcoming country. We’ve been here for not even two months but we already feel at home and it feels great to be here.”
For updates from the German embassy, follow @germanyinbahrain on Instagram
or call 17 745-277.