JOINT PARTNERSHIP

Kuwait 2019 | DIPLOMACY | INTERVIEW

Kuwait and Germany enjoy an extremely high level of cooperation as elected members of the UN Security Council and in other fields.

Karl Bergner
BIOGRAPHY
Karl Bergner was the German Ambassador to the State of Kuwait. He joined the German Foreign Service in 1989 and served in the Political Section of the German Embassy in London and as Deputy Chief of Mission in Panama. After a subsequent post in the Personnel Affairs Department of the Foreign Office in Bonn, he gained first leadership experiences as Head of the Embassy Office in Abuja. He also held the positions of Deputy Head of the Foreign Service Academy, Head of the Political Department of the German Embassy in Madrid, and Head of the Southern European Division of the Foreign Office. From 2013-2016, he was Minister for Communication and Culture at the German Embassy in Washington.

What major factors make Kuwait a strategic diplomatic partner in the GCC region?

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. It pursues a value-based foreign policy and supports multilateral approaches within the framework of the UN and is currently an elected member of the UN Security Council, 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 HH Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmed Al-Sabah as “Humanitarian Leader" by the UN. Through all this, Kuwait has a soft power that goes far beyond its size or population and makes it an important diplomatic partner in the region.

Kuwaiti investment in Germany has reached about EUR30 billion while German exports to Kuwait are worth over EUR1.3 billion; are you satisfied with these numbers or do you see room for improvement?

I am extremely pleased with these numbers. More importantly, all these investments have been beneficial to the Kuwaiti investors as well as the German companies involved, because Kuwaitis tend to have long-term view on investments that corresponds very well with the German approach. And on the trade side, Germany is still the largest European exporter of goods to Kuwait. However, I would not be a good ambassador if I did not try to increase these already positive numbers. We plan to organize an investment seminar to showcase investment opportunities in Germany and will certainly continue to promote Kuwait as a stable and wealthy market to German companies.

How are Germany and Kuwait enhancing collaboration in the education field in order to boost the number of Kuwaiti students in German universities?

One of my personal objectives as ambassador is 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. Such a pool of Kuwaitis will be instrumental to improving bilateral relations—from a level that is already very high—and to bring even more German business to Kuwait. Now, I also recognize the challenges on this path, in particular the language. This is why we have started an initiative that will create a German ecosystem in Kuwait at various levels. We will first strengthen language training in not only schools, but also in institutions of higher education. In parallel, we will strive to increase the number of postgraduate and doctoral students, because many of these programs can be done entirely in English, and this will help to develop new academic ties between Germany and Kuwait. And we are also in contact with the Ministry of Higher Education to find ways to increase the number of undergraduate students in Germany. One argument there is that the high-quality education in Germany is free of charge.

What are your expectations for the year ahead?

For our bilateral relations, I expect a continuation of the very high level of cooperation we currently enjoy as elected members of the UN Security Council and in other fields. With regard to our commercial relations, I foresee a further increase after the implementation of German-led projects in Kuwait. I am confident the German companies that have been awarded contracts will not only bring a number of smaller German companies in their tow, but also convince Kuwaitis through the quality and reliability of their work. And in cultural relations, I hope to see the first fruits of our efforts to increase the number of Kuwaiti students in Germany. I will personally not experience all this, because I will return to Germany at the end of July. Hence, this is a great occasion to thank my Kuwaiti friends for the cordial hospitality and friendship they have offered to my wife and I. Kuwait has a big space in our hearts and will be there forever.