H.E. Stefan Möbs
Ambassador of the Federal Republic of Germany
By Reaven D’Souza
German Ambassador to Kuwait H.E. Stefan Möbs is a career diplomat who has worked in the German Federal Foreign Office since 1986. Over the past 36 years, he has served in his country’s foreign service in Ethiopia, United Kingdom, Syria, United States, China, and Japan, before taking up his current post in Kuwait in 2019.
Good humored and affable, Ambassador Möbs always has a smile on his face that reflects his genuine warmth and friendliness. As his tenure in Kuwait draws to a close in June, nearly everyone in the diplomatic circle and all of us here in the media, will greatly miss his vast experience in diplomacy, and his refreshing comments that provide a 360-degree view on situations.
In a recent exclusive interview with The Times Kuwait Managing Editor, Ambassador Möbs spoke about his choice of a career in diplomacy, his experiences in the foreign service of his country, and in particular, about the time he has spent in Kuwait enhancing German-Kuwait relations in various domains.
Ambassador Möbs began by explaining what led him to choose a career in his country’s foreign service: “Let me first of all reiterate what I have said many times before: that I consider my three years here in Kuwait as the crowning moment of my career in the German foreign service. Several factors were influential in directing me towards a career in diplomacy, to begin with, I read law at Münster University in Germany and at the Lausanne University in Switzerland, and at the same time I had an abiding interest in public administration.
“Also, since I was a child I was interested in foreign nations and later was a tourist in several countries as my parents took me there. How do you combine these influences and come up with a career; of course, in the foreign service of your own country. Not for one moment have I regretted my decision to enter the diplomatic field, as it is the most interesting job I can think of. Questions come from all directions and corners, so you have to be creative (which I am, I like the arts) — and so you learn something every day if you are open-minded, and can expand your horizons.”
Asked about some of the challenges, if any, that he had faced in earlier postings, the ambassador replied with a laugh, “Oh, so many; but again, there was always something to learn from each incident. Every challenge or crisis is an opportunity and chance to learn something new. Mistakes are signposts showing a better direction. Let us learn from Asia not to dwell too long in guilt but to make it better, much better, next time.
I traveled two days almost nonstop through the Ogaden in Africa to help open a bridge connecting Ethiopia and Somalia. I organized with my team night-time repatriations of Germans from Kuwait in the beginning of the pandemic. I gave support to German companies in China by sitting through long, long dinners with exotic dishes and drinks with representatives of investment places. I flew in a C-130 delivering food aid within Ethiopia. I still rejoice at the great success in 2007, which is still going strong every year, of inventing the ‘EU Open House’ in Washington D.C.
“My experiences in Kuwait began when I flew in from Tokyo in July 2019 together with my wife, who is a colleague in the foreign service and works at the Embassy, and is always a trusted adviser. Arriving in a pre-pandemic time, Kuwait gave us a very, very warm welcome. It was as hot as it can be in July… But I mean it in the other sense, too. People were and are friendly here. I find partners who are interested to learn from the experience of Germany, Europe and the rest of the world.”
Commenting on bilateral relations between Germany and Kuwait and his plans to further enhance these ties during his tenure, Ambassador Möbs said: “Contrary to the belief that the project to build a German curriculum university in Kuwait with TU Munich is a government-run project, I would like to clarify that it is a private one. Project partners are working together and I am always eager to learn how they are advancing. I find it a great achievement and sometimes even a challenge to know that 700 German brands are on sale here in Kuwait. This is not only about German cars, as you would first think of, but from kitchen equipment Gaggenau to wall plugs which are appropriately called ‘Fischer’, everything meaning German quality is available here. We coined our Instagram campaign: Made in Germany – available in Kuwait. Aah, by the way: Hello readers, please follow us on Instagram! GermanyinKuwait”
Turning to bilateral economic relations, mutual investments, the volume of bilateral trade, Germany’s top diplomat in Kuwait elaborated: “Our economic and trading relations are close: Germany and Kuwait are trusted partners and friends. Up until 2020, Germany was Kuwait’s most important trade partner within the EU. Even in terms of global imports, Germany was among the top seven trade partners accounting for over 5 percent of Kuwait`s total imports in 2019. However, the corona pandemic impacted our bilateral trade volume to a certain extent.
“Germany typically exports mainly highly manufactured goods to Kuwait, such as vehicles and spare parts, machinery, electrical equipment and pharmaceutical products. We are particularly proud and grateful for the trust and love that many Kuwaitis have placed in German cars that can be seen all over Kuwait`s roads. German imports from Kuwait consist for the most part of petrochemical products.
At the same time, Germany is also a preferred location for Kuwaiti investors, not least because it is considered a politically safe and stable location and a dynamic market. Kuwaiti investments in Germany, both by the government and the private sector, have reached double-digit billions of euros. An eminent example are Kuwaiti investments in big German car manufacturers such as the one by Kuwait Investment Authority in Mercedes-Benz Group.
“Both our countries can build on this legacy, and develop new economic ties. More than 90 percent of German companies are small and medium enterprises (SME), which is why we are reaching out to private companies and start-ups of similar size in Kuwait. Here I can see potential for future cooperation, in conjunction with a further evolvement of the investment climate in Kuwait.
“In terms of future investments and venture capital, Germany encourages partnerships in future industries and the Renewable Energies sector, particularly in the production of green hydrogen, electricity from off- and onshore windparks and from solar energy. In all these areas, Kuwait has great natural potential, which could be further tapped or explored. In all these bilateral projects, I work together with, and I cherish very much my friendship with my fellow ambassador, H.E. Najeeb Al-Bader, Kuwait’s Ambassador to the Federal Republic of Germany, which we use to propel all matters bilateral. Germany and Kuwait have a lot in common in humanitarian and international goals.”
Germany is not all about business, it is also a major tourism destination for travelers from around the world, said the ambassador when asked about the number of tourists from Kuwait to Germany. He added, with a smile, “It is very difficult to speak about places of interest in Germany, not because there are none, but because it is just the opposite. Germany is one large tourism venue and investment opportunity.
“From vibrant cities like Berlin or Munich and all the others in between, remote villages with tasty homemade food and drinks, mountains bathed in blue sky and surrounded by deep green forests and blue lakes, up to the vast and sometimes rough and certainly salty North and Baltic Sea. All of these places are within easy reach for travelers from Kuwait, both for first-time tourists as well as longtime Kuwaiti house-owners in Germany.’
He also advised everyone wishing to travel to Germany to apply for the visa early: “Please, listen to my advice: grab your visa early. We have introduced a new service at no extra cost. You can now apply for your travel papers six months in advance. Complete the visa formalities tomorrow if possible at our visa service center VFS, and you can begin packing six months later.”
On cultural exchanges between the two countries, the ambassador pointed out the increase in interest among many Kuwaitis to learn the German language. “We see a rising interest in learning the German language, and we offer certification tests on a regular basis now, after the pandemic. For next appointments, those interested can check: https://www.instagram.com/goethegulf/. We always welcome Kuwaiti and other students with a strong working ethos at German universities where studies may be conducted in the English language, too. Town-twinning has not yet been discussed but maybe I could leave this as a project for my future successor, as I will leave Kuwait in June, with the fondest memories.
Ambassador Möbs concluded the interview with a message for young Kuwaitis: “Your country has historically been a place which has been very much sought after by foreigners as a location because of its great stability and fairness to all, as a place where just government took place. It has been a place which connected many different continents, countries and cultures. Able Kuwaiti sailors have traveled far east for trade with India and beyond.
Keep this tradition and develop it into modern times. More than two thirds of my adult life I have lived as a foreigner in other countries. Consider foreigners as an enrichment to one’s society!. Kuwait is comparatively small but immensely rich; its investment could turn the country into a regional laboratory: renewable energies, hydrogen as storage and propulsion, fight against desertification and greening of cities etc. In all this, Germany and notably German companies would be glad to be your partner. Finally: Thank you, Kuwait for being such a cornerstone in my career; I will always remember you.”