Interview with H.E. Bernhard Schlagheck German Ambassador to PakistanRaja Aamir Mahmood Bhatti
Ambassador Bernhard Schlagheck 1988 – 1989 Diplomatic Academy 1989 – 1991 Federal Foreign Office 1991 – 1993 German Embassy Kuwait, Deputy Head of Mission 1993 – 1996 Permanent Representation of the Federal Republic of Germany to NATO, Brussels, Political Counsellor 1996 – 1999 Advisor to the President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the European Council, Bonn/ Strasbourg 1999 Federal Foreign Office, Desk Officer 1999 – 2001 German Embassy Moscow, Political Counsellor 2001 – 2004 Federal Foreign Office, Head of Division 2004 – 2006 UNMIK Pristina, Deputy Head of Political Division 2006 – 2007 Chief of Staff of UN Security Council Negotiating Team on Status of Kosovo, Vienna 2007 – 2010 Federal Foreign Office, Head of Division 2010 – 2012 German Embassy Rome – Holy See, Deputy Head of Mission 2012 – 2014 Federal Foreign Office, Head of State Secretaries’ Office 2014 – 2016 Federal Foreign Office, Deputy Director General 2016 – 2019 German Embassy Abuja, Ambassador 2019 German Embassy Islamabad, Ambassador
DS: First of all I want to congratulate you on German Unification day as recently German nation celebrated it. Can you share in brief the story of German success from fall to rise? As once again German nation is united and working for development of their beloved country and impressively Germany becomes third economic power.
Bernhard Schlagheck: Well, I would mention three main reasons for Germany’s post-war success. First, perhaps surprisingly, the totality of its defeat in 1945. Not only militarily and political, but also – and perhaps even more importantly – morally. There was no denying possible, no stab-in –the-back delusion. Tough lessons had to be learned. It was clean slate, zero point. Secondly, the generousness and farsightedness of the WW II victors, later our allies, particularly France, the US, the UK, to allow a democratically transformed Germany to return back into the comity of civilized nations – what led to the creation of NATO and the European Union, eventually to German unification in 1990. Thirdly, hard work and hands-on approach of the German post-war generations, what Max Weber famously called the “German work ethics”. All that combined had fundamentally remade Germany and subsequently, with a free and democratic Germany on board, transformed Europe.
DS: Germany played great role to welcome refuges from Syria and other countries. Can you share some details about these refuges and facilities which are providing to these refuges?
Bernhard Schlagheck: Germany considered it, back in 2015 and 2016, as ist humanitarian duty to receive these refugees in their urgent need from Syria and other places in the Middle East and granted asylum to those who were fleeing imminent political persecution. The integration process in Germany since then, as in other places, has not always been easy, but is generally on track. Germany has now more foreigners on its soil than any other European country what has not passed off without frictions, occasionally even nasty populist backlashes, but Germany has resolutely defended and pursued its humanitarian course. Which does not mean, besides, that we would accommodate irregular migrants seeking merely greener pastures. The right to asylum under the German constitution is limited to cases of individual political persecution, so, economic hardship, as deplorable as it may be, does not qualify. Irregular migrants, it needs to be emphasized, face the immediate risk of being sent back.
DS: What strategy you are employing to safeguard the human rights in your country?
Bernhard Schlagheck: Germany has acceded to all major international and European conventions and agreements on Human Rights and humanitarian law; obligations stemming from them are domesticated in German national law and therefore fully justiciable before German Courts. It goes without great saying – since it is enshrined in our constitution – that all state bodies in Germany are strictly bound by them.
DS: Pakistan and Germany have enjoyed close friendly ties since the establishment of their diplomatic relations. Since then, how would you estimate the future of diplomatic ties between Pakistan and Germany?
BernhardSchlagheck: I fully agree, our relations – since inception in 1951 – have been close and amicable. And I would say: as friends, we need not sing always from the same song sheet, but we ought to share the same understanding of melodies and harmonies of sound. That had always been – with very few exceptions – the case between our two countries; I’m quite certain it will continue to be the case in the future.
DS: How many Pakistanis are living in Germany? And what is their role in Germany society?
Bernhard Schlagheck: Roughly 65.000. They make considerable contributions to German society and welfare – mostly as traders and businesspeople. Last week I met one of the city Counsellors of Heidelberg who hails from Punjab. As yet, there are not that many people of Pakistani origin in such a position, but their number is increasing. I think that’s good.
DS: Germany is very important country for alternative energy resources and for producing electricity. Is there any plan that Germany can export its alternative energy technology to Pakistan as Pakistan is facing very serious energy problems?
Bernhard Schlagheck: Renewable energy is one of the cornerstones of our development assistance here in Pakistan, mostly spearheaded by GIZ, our development agency. Unfortunately, I have to say, the results are somewhat mixed. While there is a clear-cut commitment of the incumbent and previous Pakistani governments to expand the share of renewables in the overall energy mix of the country, what we actually see is a rather massive increase in fossil fuel powered energy supply. So, there is some confusion here, that needs to be addressed.
DS: Germany has a diversified and developed economy, do you suggest Pakistani investors to invest in Germany or is there specific investment opportunity for Pakistanis?
Bernhard Schlagheck: Well, I can only encourage Pakistani investors to actively seek for investment opportunities in Germany. In fact, together with the Pakistani diplomatic missions in Germany, we are trying to facilitate such efforts, e.g. participation in trade fairs in Germany, interfaces with local German Chambers of Commerce etc.
DS: Does the German Embassy is engaged in any development program in Pakistan?
Bernhard Schlagheck: Very much so! Germany is one of the biggest bilateral donors altogether, probably the 3rd or 4th biggest in the land. Main focus areas are 1) sustainable economy, incl. the very ambitious TVET programme, together with EU and Norway 2) renewable energy, as I said already 3) good governance, particularly on local and regional level 4) healthcare, notably polio eradication and the setup of a national health insurance scheme. Since 1961 Germany has invested roughly € 4 bln. In development projects in Pakistan – that’s no small money!
DS: How many German political foundations are active in the field of development cooperation in Pakistan?
Bernhard Schlagheck: Currently three; Friedrich Ebert, Friedrich Naumann und Hanns Seidel-Foundations are here and working. Regrettably, the Pakistani Government does not make it easy for foreign foundations to work here, what has been, over years, appreciated and acknowledged by government agencies and civil society alike. All the more regrettable that Konrad Adenauer and Heinrich Böll Foundations, which used to work here before, were impelled to close their offices in 2018 and won’t return to Pakistan, at least at the present stage.
DS: How Germany can support Pakistan to develop its tourism industry?
Bernhard Schlagheck: Pakistan is undoubtedly a country with huge tourism potential. My German Embassy staff members are keen Pakistan travelers – during their vacations they are exploring Pakistan from South to North, from the ruins of Mohenjo-Daro in Sindh to the Hunza valley in Gilgit-Baltistan. Particularly the Himalaya and Karakorum are impressive – so much higher than the Alps in Germany! German mountaineers have been climbing these mountains – like the Nanga Parbat – since the early 20th Century. I encourage the Government of Pakistan to advertise Pakistan’s tourism potential at German tourism fairs. In addition, recent Pakistani measures regarding e-visa and relaxation of No-ObjectionCertificate regulations are most helpful. On our side, given the improved security situation we have eased our travel advisory for Pakistan over the last years.
DS: What kind of role Pakistan and Germany can play together in order to counter terrorism?
Bernhard Schlagheck: Our very solid defence cooperation – existing for almost seven decades – encompasses, even as a priority area, counter-terrorism. Including exchange of views and expertise as well as exercise participation, recently in the Egyptian-Jordan-Pakistan Counter-Terrorism Exercise 2019 Fajrur Sharq. That will certainly remain so as terrorist threats have not completely vanished.
DS: How many Pakistani students are studying in Germany as Germany is one of the main educational destinations of foreign students.
Bernhard Schlagheck: Well, numbers vary somewhat, but all in all some 4000 Pakistani students are currently studying in Germany. With an upward trend, which is great. Unfortunately, the capacities of our visa section at the Embassy are such that we cannot fully and always in a timely manner keep pace with growing demand for student visa. We are, however, working on it.
DS: What educational opportunities Pakistani students do have in Germany for instance Scholarships, exchange programs etc?
Bernhard Schlagheck: The German Academic Exchange Service, called DAAD, has its office here in Islamabad and offers guidance for students and researchers who are interested to learn more about scholarship opportunities in Germany. DAAD itself offers scholarships for master and PhD students who wish to study in Germany. Additionally, more than 30 university partnerships between Pakistani and German universities help intensify exchange between students and faculty staff in the higher education sector.
DS: On which issues during your services in Pakistan you would focus more in order to strengthen the bilateral ties between the two countries?
Bernhard Schlagheck: I have to say I’m a great believer in, how to put that, S2S contacts, society to society. When we want societies to get to know one another better, even perhaps to cross pollinate and I think that is the way to go in a world that grows closer and closer together – then we have to bring civil society and most notably people themselves closer into contacts and interaction – whether it’s sports, fashion, music, business, even religion. I strongly believe in inter-faith dialogue, something great minds like Mohammed Iqbal and the German poet, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, had in mind when they thought about a “West-Eastern diwan”. And when it comes to S2S, there is certainly also room for further progress in German-Pakistani relations.
DS: You visited different cities of Pakistan, how you are feeling here and what is your opinion about our people? What impression do you have of Pakistani culture and people?
Bernhard Schlagheck: Much to my regret, I haven’t travelled that much in Pakistan yet. I arrived only 3 months ago and was first then mostly occupied with the usual diplomatic decorum: submitting credentials, paying courtesy visits to Ministers, to important members of the legislature, the military, other high officeholders of the state, you name it. But I certainly know, that I won’t understand Pakistan while just sitting in Islamabad and therefore I will start travelling before long – as my predecessor Martin Kobler did. Looking very much forward to it. My intention is to see and grasp every nook and cranny of this great country and, most importantly, meet as many people in Pakistan as I can.