Dr Wolfgang Moser, German Ambassador in Cambodia, can look back on 35 years in the foreign service.
On the day of the German reunification he was chargé d’affaires in the Ivory Coast, “the first time where I had without any preparation to celebrate a national day,” he remembers.
“I still have a very good memory of this immense feeling of joy and of happ iness that everybody had, not only the Germans on that day, but also our local friends, the Ivoirians, the Africans who really felt with us what it meant to be a reunited country, a reunited nation, a reunited people.”
Moser says that for the first 10 or 12 years of his diplomatic life, whenever he was abroad and people asked him which country he came from, he said Germany. And then people used to ask East or West Germany.
“So finally in 1990, all this ended and then we could proudly just say, Germany, and I’m very happy about that,” he says.
Moser came to Cambodia in July 2010 after serving as Ambassador in Madagascar for four years and several other postings abroad.
“Diplomatic life is a very colourful and varied life,” Moser says.
He studied in Singapore in the 1970s and, as a sinologist, he says his roots are in Asia.
“So I feel like coming home when I come back to Asia and I’m very happy that I’m here in Cambodia as I think this country is very authentic Asia,” Moser says.
“This is my last posting and the more I am enjoying being here in Cambodia. Very nice people and very interesting country.”
In accordance with the deadline for all civil servants in Germany, Moser will be retired on the 30th of June in 2013 at the age of 65.
According to Moser, Germany and Cambodia had diplomatic relations in the 1960s that were stopped when Cambodia recognized the German Democratic Republic (GDR) in 1969. After 1979, it was again the GDR that together with other socialist countries established diplomatic relations.
“But we were in the happy situation that after reunification we were still having this wonderful building, this compound and the residence,” Moser says.
Thus in 1992, even before the Kingdom of Cambodia was re-established, Germany opened up a diplomatic mission.
“So as a matter of fact we are here for 20 years now,” Moser says.
Germany has been active in bilateral cooperation for 20 years now. Because they had to wait until the re-establishment of the Kingdom, Germany only has diplomatic relations for 19 years.
“So it’s a long history and I think during all this time we were very much engaged especially in the cooperation because there was lot to be built up again,” Moser says.
According to Moser, today’s German-Cambodian relations are a mix of many different things and can be divided into political, cultural and economic fields.
“We have excellent political relations,” Moser says. “We share a lot of common ideas and values,” he says, adding that the European Union and ASEAN are very strong partners.
He said Germany appreciates that Cambodia gave them a lot of support on the candidature for a non-permanent seat in the United Nation’s Security Council.
“They supported us on the basis of mutuality,” Moser says. “That means we will support Cambodia when the world comes up on the 18th of October for Cambodia’s seat as a non-permanent member in the UN Security Council.”
Germany is also the third contributor to the Khmer Rouge tribunal, not only financially. Moser says apart from the direct contribution to the tribunal they also have a host of programs for the vicitims support section, civil society and support in many other fields.
He says the memory and the safeguarding of the historical memory of this period is essential, adding that this is also due to the fact that Germany also had some dark passages in its history.
According to Moser, both countries maintain active dialogue on a lot of issues including human rights, which are normally done together with the European partners. “On the cooperation field we have altogether until now something like 300 million euros which is about US$400 million us dollar since 1992 put into our bilateral development cooperation,” Moser says.
Both countries maintain cultural relations, for example a German conservation project to safeguard and keep the reliefs at Angkor, especially Angkor Wat. An exhibition in the National Museum shows the cultural cooperation in safeguarding the old historic Khmer culture, Moser says.
According to Moser, with the Meta House, Germany is the only country besides the French cultural centre that has an established, active, cultural institution here in Phnom Penh.
“So there is a lot of German-Khmer or German-Cambodian cultural activities going on together, Moser says.
He says Germany imports more than € 400 million, or more than US$ 650 million from Cambodian manufacturers, mainly garments, textiles and shoes, but also agricultural products such as sugar.
“On the other hand the German exports to Cambodia are just coming up to € 30 million or $40 million, which is mainly in machinery and in chemical products for agriculture,” he says.
According to Moser, also the GDR and Cambodia had very constructive bilateral cooperation during the 1980s on which they can still build today. He says, for example, most of the local embassy staff is Cambodians trained in the GDR and that there are a lot of people in the administration, the universities and many other fields who had been in Germany.
“And let’s face it, we are now one united Germany and East Germany is also part of our tradition so we should not negate it,” he says. “I think they did a very good job in the past by bringing education to a lot of Cambodians who suffered from a lack of training, of vocational training, especially due to the Khmer Rouge period. So I think that was a very important contribution that East Germany did give to this country. And we are proud of it.”
Regarding the future of German-Cambodian relations, Moser says, “This is a changing world. And I personally foresee that more and more emphasis will be laid not on direct bilateral relations but on joint efforts of the European Union on the one side and on ASEAN on the other side.”
He says he personally thinks that in 20 or 30 years, it may very well be that bilateral relations will go into the relationship of the European Union to Cambodia.
“But this is a very personal opinion of course, it does not reflect any preview or any foreseeing, any vision of my ministry of foreign affairs,” Moser says. “This is my view as a diplomat after 35 years and seeing the development from 1978 until now.”
Moser says for a diplomat it is very nice to be in a country such as Cambodia “where you see that there is economic growth, that there is positive development, that people are improving their living conditions, that people are happier with the living conditions, that they find, that they are getting wealthier”.
He says Cambodia is a fascinating country with a lot of potential and he often compares the present situation nowadays in Cambodia with the situation in Germany in the 1950s “when we had this willingness of finally build up a country”.