Friday, September 24, 2010

From Baghdad to Erbil (I) (Germany and Northern Iraq)

From Baghdad to Erbil (I)

(Own report) - By accelerating its expansion into the Kurdish regions of Northern Iraq, German businesses are encouraging Kurdish secessionist aspirations. The German businesses' appetite has been particularly aroused by the riches in resources of the "Autonomous Region of Kurdistan". Reserves of 45 billion barrels of oil are estimated to be in this province alone. The Kurdish regional government in Erbil is laying claim to these reserves and has already concluded delivery contracts with foreign oil companies - most recently with RWE, the German energy giant. Subsequent tensions with the central government in Baghdad are massively fomented by Germany. Contrary to Iraqi law, one can hear from the German Ministry of the Economy that the province should have sovereign rights over its oil and gas reserves. Simultaneously, Berlin is encouraging German small-scale enterprises to do business in Northern Iraq, considered a "boom" region, offering a "reliable investment climate". Observers fear that the economic drifting apart in Iraq - supported by Germany - and the Kurdish claim on the resource rich regions of Mosul and Kirkuk could provoke a civil war.
Boom Town Erbil
Since the end of the 2003 war on Iraq, waged by the US and its allies, German companies have been using the Kurdish Northern provinces to regain a foothold in the country. These companies include Siemens, Zueblin, Hochtief and Heinkel, as well as some consulting and security firms.[1] Security firms are pointing out that travel in the "Autonomous Region of Kurdistan" is much "easier to organize and less dangerous" than in the rest of the country.[2] Already since quite some time, German industrial companies have been considering Erbil a "boom town".[3] Unlike Baghdad, Lufthansa can have direct flights to Erbil - and no visas are required.
High Rates of Growth
The German Ministry of the Economy and the "Working Group Middle East and North Africa" of the German Chamber of Foreign Trade (AHK) are inviting a "cross-industry delegation" to visit the "Autonomous Region Kurdistan" in mid-October. This is the second time since 2009. The visit will include meetings with high ranking "political decision makers", among them the Kurdish ministers for housing, commerce and industry, health and electricity. The interlocutors have not been chosen at random: "High rates of growth and therefore very good possibilities for new orders are being offered in the building sector, which is continuing to benefit from large investments in the reconstruction and development of the infrastructure; in the health sector with its enormous need to catch up and in the food industry," according to the AHK.[4]