German Diplomat Leaves with Good Impressions [Archives:1998/20/Law & Diplomacy]

May 18 1998

Mr. Cristoph Anton, the second secretary at the German Embassy in Sanaa, who is responsible for press and cultural affairs is preparing to leave the country at the end of his assignment here. Yemen has been his first posting after serving for one year in the South Asia department at the German Foreign Office. He came to Yemen in October 1995.
Ismail Al-Ghabry of Yemen Times talked to Mr. Anton and filed the following interview.
Q: What has Yemen added to your diplomatic experience?
A: Yemen has been a very interesting posting for me. I had the privilege to accompany the developments in Yemen in the last 3 years. Yemen has developed a lot in that period. We have seen the second elections, which were highly praised by the international community.
We have also seen developments in the structural reform program and in the cultural sector. A cultural agreement was recently signed by the Republic of Germany and Yemen. So I think many sectors in Yemen are very quickly approaching the 21st Century.
I have found many friends here in Yemen. I find the Yemeni people very friendly and so I really had a very good time during my stay here in your very hospitable country.
Q: How do you evaluate the Yemeni events which occurred during your posting here?
A: There have been very positive developments in many fields, and I was able to closely watch these developments concentrating on the cultural and press sector which is my domain here at the embassy.
We had a lot of new developments at the embassy. We have introduced language classes and supported the establishment of the German language departments in the universities of Sanaa and Aden. In the autumn there will be a German lecturer coming from the German Academic Exchange Service to work in the Faculty of European Languages in the German Language Department in Sanaa University.
There are also other language classes in the Ministry of Defense. The German language promotion has been a very important part of our work. Another important aspect is the work of the German archeological institute which has been here since 1987 and which the embassy also follows closely. We are very grateful that we can help Yemen in restoring some of the old mosques and temples and also in exploring the past. One example is the project to restore old manuscripts found in the mosque in Sanaa. Micro-films are made of the manuscripts, and at the moment they are scientifically researched and looked after in order to learn more about the past. There have been very important projects funded with more than DM 2 million.
Another sector of course is our film exhibitions. We have established a yearly European film festival which will take place in June this year for the second time. We also regularly show German films at the British Council. We had several scientific and art exhibitions with German and Yemeni artists.
Q: What about the Yemeni press?
A: I am really impressed how free the press is here, which sometimes strongly criticizes the changes in this country. If you look at other countries in the Arab world, that is not necessarily the case. This is very important for democracy, and the people are able to express their opinions freely.
So I have had a very interesting time here, having met many interesting journalists. I have been able to send them to Germany through various programs implemented by the German government. This will further enhance the understanding of the German problems which concern the issue of unification.
Q: How can you evaluate the democratization process?
A: You have had already a second general election just last year after the unification, which has been very successful. The participation and the election campaign before showed that there was a keen interest by the population in this issue and that people are really wanting to participate in discussing the issues of the day.
Q: There will be an election in September in Germany, are you planning to invite some journalists to report on this election?
A: Yes, there will be trips organized by the German Ministry of Information, and I think one Yemeni journalist will have the opportunity to go to Germany to cover this election.
Q: During my stay in Germany last March, there was talk of making Berlin an important EU administrative center. Can you comment on that?
A: Berlin has always been the capital of Germany, but due to the political situation the actual government seat is Bonn. Now things have changed, Berlin is also the political center in Germany.
At the moment you see cranes everywhere in Berlin. There is a new city built in the center of Berlin, which is quite vast because it was empty. So there is a lot to be done, and the Foreign Ministry will move in the Autumn of 1999 to Berlin.
Most of the people are very excited to go to this capital, which offers a lot in the culture, economy and politics. There are exciting developments. For foreign embassies, it will be very interesting to come to Berlin and benefit from these opportunities.
Q: What is your new post?
A: I am going to Madrid in Spain, which is a very different place from Yemen. But on the other hand of course Spain had a very strong Arab influence. When you visit some cities you still find a lot of Arab relics. So I think I will not miss the Arab world very much.
Q: Any last comment?
I had a very interesting time here and I just want to wish Yemen and the Yemeni people a prosperous future and strong commitment to more development and further democracy.