Unification Experience Brings Yemen & Germany Together [Archives:1998/11/Law & Diplomacy]

March 16 1998

As the ties between Yemen and Germany are getting stronger, especially following President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s recent visit to Germany. Several German delegations have visited Yemen to discuss future cooperation between the two countries.
Dr. Salah Haddash of Yemen Times met two visitors that have come to Yemen.
Mr. Jurgen Mollemann, member of the German Bundestag (parliament) and President of the German-Arab Association.
Q: Is this your first visit?
A: No it’s my third. I came as a member of the Cabinet and Minister of Education and Science in 1988 and now I’m here full time.
Q: What is the purpose of your visit?
A: I am here as the president of the German-Arab Association, created 30 years ago. Its purpose is to create stronger ties between Germans and Arabs by organizations, meetings, seminars, and trips in all fields of cooperation like economics, tourism sports and others. In this capacity I was invited by the President in his last visit to Bonn in September, 1997. He invited me with a delegation of the German Association.
We agreed that this is to be a delegation of Germans mainly representing German companies. There are about 600 companies and 40 are with us. Our goal is to add to the activities of the private sector and those undertaken by the political parties and politicians of both countries.
The other capacity is as a former member of government, I have been a long serving parliamentarian, and a member of the Bundestag for the past 25 years.
Q: Can you tell me what is your official agenda in Yemen?
A: The meetings were very intensive. The whole delegation met with 13 ministers and this was almost the representation of the whole cabinet. Some of the meetings took place in the ministries and others were very informal but all were important.
We met with businessmen and had informal meetings with them and I believe that we will have a lot of contacts and hopefully new contracts between Yemeni and German companies.
Q: How do you view the future of the Yemeni economy?
A: Well the first economic condition is peace and a clear legal framework. We face a peaceful internal development and a legal structure that overall is in favor of the engagement of foreign companies. Basically, there must be investment guarantees, the right to transfer your money after being successful, the right to engage yourself in the host country in joint ventures, etc.
All these conditions seem to be positive in Yemen, better than in many other countries. The regional development certainly can be improved. The situation in the Gulf region has improved between Yemen and its neighbors, and we hope that any remaining questions can be peacefully resolved.
Yemen’s wish then to become a full and active member of the Gulf Corporation Council would no longer be postponed. It makes sense to see this country integrated in this common market. The country having 16,5 million inhabitants is an interesting market, but investors usually look for stronger markets, figure-wise.
The country and its companies have good relations with some of the African and Asian countries. We hope that this will be the basis for a lot of new trade relations, new joint ventures and new investments. People who deal with Deutch marks and dollars usually do not do so in an effective way. They have to do fact finding. We did so the last few days. What I felt was a positive mood not only from the Yemen side, but also from ours, so I am quite optimistic.
Q: Is there an increase in commercial relations between our two countries?
A: It should increase. There has been a positive developments recently. President Saleh told us to look at the opportunities and tell him which obstacles we are facing. When we met him today, and I have met him occasionally here and abroad, it was a very friendly and open-minded atmosphere.
Your President demonstrated his personal friendship and high esteem for Germany and so does our political leadership. This inspires people in Yemen as well as in Germany. During our meetings we not only had economic questions, tackling every economic field. If you look at the list of ministers, it is obvious we went through the whole scope of potential corporation projects.
Q: What else did you discuss with the President?
A: We also raised political issues. It was important for us to hear the political approach of Yemen concerning regional issues. When we talked about Iraq, we fully agreed that a full implementation of the UN resolutions should occur as well as more political efforts to reintegrate this country into international structures. The Iraqi population should not be punished in such a way. One should think more of the civil population of Iraq and its dramatic situation.
As far as the gulf cooperation is concerned, we are supporting a stronger cooperation between the GCC countries and Yemen, and hope that there will be a good chance of overcoming the remaining disputes. I think these are not strong enough to avoid such a cooperation.
As for the Middle East peace process, Netanyahu is practicing a policy that is creating a deep danger in the Middle East. His predecessor died for his peaceful approach to the Middle East problems, and he now behaves as if he has no responsibility. We in the German Association and I myself as a politician, believe that the European Union should take more action against the Israeli leadership, not against Israel. I think it is absolutely unacceptable that the positive prospects for peace in the Middle East which is so badly needed for the area, could be lost due to the fact that this Israeli Prime Minister seems to reject all his obligations derived from the treaties that have been celebrated in front of the Whitehouse.
Bill Clinton who has celebrated his personal success in this case should use the US influence in a more decisive way. Even the Europeans should do so. This should include a clear announcement to Mr. Netanyahu that neither the EU nor the US are prepared to finance a policy that is dangerous for peace in the area.
Q: Did you meet members of the Yemen-German Association?
A: We were together with members of the association. Many of them are quite well known to us. We heard of the growing activities of this association, involving more people from industry and the private sector but also scientists and others are joining this group. It seems as if public support from the President has encouraged more people to join and hopefully both associations German-Yemeni Association as well as the German – Arab Association could contribute for strengthened bi-lateral cooperation.
Q: Do have any last comment?
A: Basically I am deeply impressed by the spirit of friendship and co-operation, by the open-mindedness of the people we met. We really felt at home here and hopefully we can give something back from this spirit. We hope that the expectations will be fulfilled concerning economic, political, cultural and other types of cooperation. The broad scope of items discussed here gives us a good basis for such hope.
Dr. Karl-Heinz Hornhues is Chairman of the Committee of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Germany. He is Member of the Christian Democratic Union, the party of the Chancellor Helmut Kohl, and has been in parliament for 26 years.
Q: What’s the purpose of your visit to Yemen?
A: It is to continue the contact between the parliaments of Yemen and Germany. Also to see if it is possible to push bilateral relations between the two countries. They are emotionally and politically beautiful, but there are points, like economy, that could be improved.
Our scientists are here restoring your beautiful old city of Sanaa. I also want to look at international affairs, since I am Chairman of the Committee of Foreign Affairs. I want to see what is going on the other side of the Red Sea – Eritrea and Sudan. There are some topics such as Iraq, Israel, Kosovo, etc., that I like to know more about. I have gotten much new information from your foreign minister.
Q: Who are the officials you have met here?
A: I have met the President, the Prime Minister, Foreign Minister, the Speaker of Parliament and his deputy, and Chairman of the Committee of Human Rights in parliament. My Yemeni counterpart met me at the airport.
Q: What topics have you discussed with Yemeni officials?
A: Discussions were largely political, but they also included the foreign economy relations. The delegation committee was led by a colleague from the liberal party, who is a former Secretary of State of Foreign Affairs Ministry. It is part of our mission that, as one of the biggest countries in the economy of the world, it is not possible or in our interest to make a split between international politics and economy. They are combined and integrated.
Q: How do you view the Yemeni-German relations?
A: On my paper there are many beautiful sentences on the good relations between our countries. Normally, when you are visiting a country, relations are not as good as the diplomats write in their reports. In Yemen, it is a bit different. The relations are better.
The long cooperation and activities of our scientists to assist you to bring your history to the present. They did a beautiful job. You were a divided country like Germany. We are united now. This has strengthened our emotional ties.
What is going on in Sudan, Somalia, Egypt and Eritrea affects us too. But you are more involved. You are a pluralistic parliamentarian democracy, as we. So, together I think there are new chances for a real partnership. The starting of democracy in your country, is the best idea. We will do our best to support you. It is possible that all other Arab countries will see the development here. In Oman, they are growing step by step in the same direction. I hope that the combination of your traditions with the modern tradition of democracy could be a very interesting point to strengthen the cooperation between our two parliaments, for example.
Q: Would you like to add anything else?
A: I was met with warm hospitality. The best part was the two hours I spent in the ‘souk’ yesterday, drinking tea with the traders and talking to the people. I really felt at home.