Germany-Iran Relations

Germany and Iran diplomats agreeing on a deal

ILIA Corporation has had the privilege of working together with several German clients in the past, and due to the recent political developments the number of projects has already increased substantially – we expect this trend to continue. Due to the fact that Germany is a key focus market of ours, I asked myself about the history of the relationship between those two economic powerhouses, and found out the following:

Even before diplomatic ties, unofficial relations had already taken root between the two nations. Goethe’s dedication of his West-Östlicher Divan (West-Eastern Divan) to Hafez in 1819 is an illustration of how far back such cultural ties went.

In recent time Iranians especially remember Germany from the time when many Iranian intellectuals began searching for a “third force” that could be relied upon as a potential ally, beside Russia and Great Britain. By the second half of the 19th century, during the establishment of Iran’s first modern University Darolfonoon, it was common practice and a preference to hire German and Austrian teachers – this was the point in time when Iranians really got familiar with the science and technology potential of Germany.

From there the relationship between the two countries deepened over the years, to the extent that from 1939 until 1941 Iran’s top foreign trade partner was Germany (approximately 50% of its total trade), which had an important role in helping Iran to establish modern sea and air transportation ties with the rest of the world. During those years Iran imported many different products from Germany; by 1975 West Germany became the second most important supplier of non-military goods to Iran and in the course of this development, Germany became the European country with the largest Iranian expatriate community.

After the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran, relations between the two countries experienced several ups and downs. Hans-Dietrich Genscher was the first Western foreign minister to visit the Middle Eastern nation after the Islamic Revolution, visiting Iran in 1984. However, after the revolution many Iranians who immigrated to or visited Germany faced prejudice as a result of political events in Iran.

After the Iran-Iraq war, Germany increasingly became a primary trading partner of Iran again, and is still Iran’s biggest trading partner after China today – German goods worth about USD 2.3 billion were imported into Iran in 2013, and this figure is expected to multiply substantially in the years to come. Clearly the sanctions which were imposed on Iran have caused a gap in the Iran-Germany relations, and it will take some time and diplomatic effort to be bridged.

However, the removal of the sanctions will enable both countries to become closer again, and we have high hopes that Iran will see Germany as the trustworthy partner that it used to be. Several diplomatic meetings on a political level have already taken place, such as the German Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel three day visit to Iran, during which he met President Hassan Rouhani and his top Ministers. In October 2015 the Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier is due to visit Iran.

From my experience most Iranians have a very positive attitude towards Germans, and they appreciate the stereotypical characteristics, such as punctuality, precision and straightforwardness. Made in Germany has a good reputation in the country, and there is a mutual respect on which business partners can built a long-term business relationship. We highly recommend our German clients to visit the country and to experience the warm hospitality and cultural diversity first-hand.

Interestingly enough there are many parallels/synergies between Iran and Germany, such as: Both have a deep passion for engineering, both hold similar geopolitical responsibilities in their region, and both have a comparable population size with opposite population demographics (in Iran approximately 60% of the population are below the age of 32). This should make for a perfect match, don`t you think?


Written by ILIA Corporation Consultant Amir Ebrahimzadeh

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