Thursday, October 9, 2008

“Eritrea is not an easy neighbor” Amb. Dr. Claas D. Knoop

Saturday, 04 October 2008

Germany Embassy in Ethiopia has colorfully celebrated its 18th anniversary of reunification on Oct 2, 2008 here in Addis.

According to Germany Ambassador to Ethiopia, Dr. Claas D. Knoop, and Germany reunification changed the lives of each German citizen. The reunification is a symbol for the world as a whole because it breaks the building in peoples’ mind and on the ground as well. Similarly, it imparts message to breakdown the walls in the horn of Africa and to develop peaceful future for the people live in the region. WIC has talked to the Germany Ambassador to Ethiopia. Excerpts:

WIC- Could you tell us the status of the bilateral relations of Ethiopia and Germany?

Amb. Dr Claas – Of course, there is a very longstanding relationship between the two countries. In 1905, the diplomatic relations were established, we celebrated the hundred anniversary three years ago of this important event.

Our main focus in the bilateral relations is working as development partnership with Ethiopia. We have concluded the negotiation with the government for the continuation of our development cooperation between the two countries. We can continue our pre focal areas of cooperation, which is the capacity building program, utmost important to Ethiopia. The second area is the sustainable development of utilization of natural resources, mainly the area of food security. The third area, we cooperate with Ethiopian government very closely is regional and local institutions in good governance. These are the major focal areas of development cooperation that the German government has to scale up our bilateral development cooperation.

All in all, if you look at the long standing development cooperation of the two countries, 1.3 billion euros, which have been spent by our government as official development aid to this country.

Non governmental organizations are active in this country, for instance form German Churches and others. This is also one area of bilateral cooperation.

We have very lively and close cultural relationship with Ethiopia. Gothe Institute, our cultural institute, which was inaugurated by our federal president in 2004. We do have also German school. It has been opened to Ethiopian students; this is a new bridge building efforts of the two countries.

In the economic area, we encourage the German business community to invest in Ethiopia. We are also happy to have the German Ethiopian Business association, located in Ethiopia. At the very beginning, we are trying to see more Germany involvement, encouraging more export of Ethiopian goods to Germany. Germany is the biggest customer of Ethiopian coffee.

On the Political side, we comment the Ethiopian Government on its role in the region. We know that it is a very volatile region with difficult situations; look Somalia, the situation in Somalia is very worrying. In the north, Eritrea is also not an easy neighbor. So we are encouraging the Ethiopian Government to enhance the stability of the region. In a nutshell, these are our areas of bilateral relationship with Ethiopia.

We have concluded the negotiation with the government for the continuation of our development cooperation between the two countries. We can continue our pre focal areas of cooperation, which is the capacity building program, utmost important to Ethiopia.

WIC- How do you assess Ethiopia’s remarkable economic growth?

Amb. Dr. Claas – Well, Ethiopia is on the right truck not only forming our bilateral point of view but also general impression of the international community. The Ethiopian government is much commuted to develop the country. We comment if on its program to meet the MDGs, to fight poverty, to achieve the possible future, which Ethiopia becomes the middle income country. It is very ambitious, we support the government on the way Ethiopia seem remarkable progress. The country is building 13 more universities all over the country; Germany is part of this endeavor. It is very much encouraging to see the rate of young boys and girls having the opportunity to go to the primary school have increased dramatically. This is for the future of the country; the Ethiopian government is investing as part of development. Two digit economic growths is a very positive sign for the economic development of the country.

WIC – Usually donors impose their interest or will through the way of assistance, how do you evaluate as far as one sovereign country is concerned?

Amb. Dr. Claas – This is two sides of the same coin. On the one hand we appreciate very much the strong commitment of Ethiopia to develop the country and to break the circle of poverty in the MDG. In order to do, you need strong ownership of the government, here we are very welcome the Ethiopian Government on its strong ownership of the government. The other side of the coin is we are spending tax payer’s money; we are helping in the official development assistance. Our tax payers or the parliament want to know what we are doing with the money. We are accountability; we have to give them good reasons.

WIC- Recently, press law has been passed by the parliament, the CSO law under pipeline, what is your comment in the sense of promoting democratization in the country?

Amb. Dr Claas – The press law and the draft law of CSOs are important for democratization process. We have observed the law making very closely, we are really interested in what is going on. The media may have to play the watchdog role, this responsible must also function in a society.

The CSOs’ legislation, foreign NGOs are doing for the development of Ethiopia, we would continue to work. This law will create enabling environment for the work of foreign NGOs. We have a lot of understanding for the government to know what they are doing in its own country. This law is still under discussion it is really difficult to comment it on detail.

WIC- Is there any thing you want to add?

Amb Dr. Claas – I would like to say congratulate to Athlete Haile Gebriesilassie and the whole Ethiopian people on his great victory world record in Berlin Marathon. This is an incredible achievement.