Ambassador Udval: Mongolia and Germany Enjoy Thriving Relations

To the 50th Anniversary of Establishment of diplomatic relations between Mongolia and Germany
2024-02-05 18:58:47

Ulaanbaatar, February 5, 2024 /MONTSAME/. At the invitation of President of Mongolia Khurelsukh Ukhnaa, the President of  Federal Republic of Germany Frank-Walter Steinmeier will pay a State Visit to Mongolia. In anticipation of the State Visit, MONTSAME, Mongolian National News Agency, interviewed Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary Mr. Udval Luvsanjamts about the history of friendly relations and cooperation between the two countries. He was the Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Mongolia to Germany in 1995-1999.

- This year marks the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Mongolia and Germany. What period would you highlight in the evolution of relations between the two countries?

- To answer this question, I have to mention some historical events of the past. Europeans, especially Germans, first learned about Mongols in the 13th century. As for the relatively new era, it is necessary to recall the efforts made by the Bogd Khanate to have its independence recognized by major powers of the world. After the 1921 People's Revolution, although no official relations were established, the Germans were interested in Mongolia, and the beginning of trade and commerce was established at this time.

German diplomats in Moscow and Beijing came to Mongolia and met with representatives of the Mongolian People's Government. In addition, there is a fact that in 1922-1923, some German firms operated in Mongolia where the first German specialists worked, and they had a good reputation among the Mongolian people. Germany and France were the first countries among Western countries to which  Mongolian students were sent for education. Well-known intellectuals including D. Natsagdorj, founder of the modern Mongolian literature, writers D. Namdag, N. Navaaan-Yunden, artist L. Namkhaitseren, and geologist J. Dugersuren were among the 40 people who studied in Germany at that time. After World War II, in the late 1940s and early 1950s, when democratic countries began to recognize Mongolia, on April 12, 1950, our country established diplomatic relations with the Democratic Republic of Germany and successfully cooperated in all fields. Diplomatic relations with the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG) were established on January 31, 1974, exactly 50 years ago. At that time, FRG was the 62nd country to establish diplomatic relations with our country. This is what I can say to the question in short.

- You worked in the diplomatic service for 40 years. When holding the office of ambassador, who fully represents the country in foreign countries what did you aim for and focus on?

- When East and West Germany reunited in 1990, Mongolia opened its Embassy in Bonn, the capital of Federal Germany then, and Mr. Tsolmon was appointed as the Ambassador. At that time, I had been working as a Counselor at the Embassy in Berlin since 1985. The Embassy where I worked was reorganized as the Branch of the Embassy in Bonn, and I was appointed as the Head of the Branch.

Earlier, the Embassy in Warsaw Poland had been in charge of Germany since the establishment of diplomatic relations with FRG. At that time, I was appointed as the first diplomatic officer when a new position was created at the Embassy in Warsaw in charge of relations with the Federal Republic of Germany. It was 1975. So I was in charge of Mongolian-German relations for about 40 years - in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in the Embassies in Berlin and Bonn, and a non-governmental organization called the Mongolian-German Conference. I am happy that I served from attaché to ambassador, taking responsibility for Mongolian-German relations. I worked as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Mongolia to the Federal Republic of Germany from 1995 to 1999 and now I am the General Secretary of the Mongolian-German Conference, an elected position I have been holding for 25 years.

What was your first impression of Germany?

- In the beginning, it was not easy to live and work in a foreign country, among people with different cultures and customs. However, when you make every endeavor not to lose the trust of the people of your home country and to fulfill tasks the government gave, you will naturally get used to it.

Upon being appointed as Ambassador, my first goal was to raise the level of political relations. As a result, the Heads of State of Mongolia and Germany made a mutual visit for the first time. In addition, fruitful relations at the level of Parliament, Foreign Affairs, Finance, and other ministries were intensified. I also focused on strengthening the legal foundations of relations.

The document called “Joint Statement on the basis of relations between the Federal Republic of Germany and Mongolia” was first established. This was a big achievement. Many other economic, cultural, and education documents were established and implemented. We also managed to resolve the debts of Mongolia created during the former GDR era and related documents were signed. Regarding the development of economic cooperation, Mongolia was at the top in terms of per capita aid provided by Germany to developing countries.

When I was appointed as Ambassador, the economic cooperation between Mongolia and Germany totaled 28 million Deutsche Marks. But at the time when I left office in 1999, it had grown to 70 million Deutsche marks, and it changed from aid to project implementation. I also took part in the initiation of attracting investors to Mongolia and organizing investor meetings in major German cities. Namely, meetings were held in six cities: Berlin, Munich, Cologne, Stuttgart, Leipzig, and Dusseldorf.

The book "Investors Directory" was developed for foreign investors and published in German for the first time. I think this book was useful for German investors. In addition, the first air transport agreement was signed with FRG. Consequently, MIAT, Mongolian Airlines, began to conduct regular flights to Berlin and Frankfurt, opening the largest gateway to Europe.

Also, the Prime Ministers of the two countries personally participated in the opening of the major exhibition on "Chinggis Khan and his Successors" in Bonn and Munich. Ulaanbaatar Culture Days were first held in Bonn, and later Bonn Culture Days took place in Ulaanbaatar. I managed to implement multiple works. These are some of the works I accomplished. Subsequently, the relations between the two countries continue to progress and flourish in most fields today.

- What are the special characteristics of diplomatic relations between our two countries?

- The characteristic of the relationship between the two countries is a stable attested relationship. Germany is our leading partner in Europe and our reliable third neighbor. Though our country established diplomatic relations with FRG in 1974, Mongolia opened its permanent embassy in Germany in 1990. After establishing our embassy, we set a major goal, which was to raise the relations between the two countries to a higher level.  High-level visits give a big impetus to the overall relationship. That is why, when the first President of Mongolia, Ochirbat Punsalmaa made a State Visit to Western European countries in 1995, Germany was the first country he visited as the leading partner in Europe. During this visit, the parties signed the Joint Statement on the basis of relations between the Federal Republic of Germany and Mongolia. This document was a fundamental document that defined the basic principles and priorities of relations between the two countries.

In 1998, among heads of state in Western countries, President of the Federal Republic of Germany Roman Herzog made an official visit to Mongolia first, which was a big support to the young democratic Mongolia.

At that time, Mr. Roman Herzog described the Mongolian-German relationship as an "especially attested relationship”. From here, the cooperation progressed to a new level, and later the Comprehensive Partnership was established. From a young age, Mr. Herzog was interested in the history of the Eastern world and had a very good impression of our country after reading "The Secret History of the Mongols". During his visit to Mongolia, Mr. Herzog visited the ancient capital Kharkhorin and signed a document on the initiation of joint archaeological excavations of the two countries at the Erdenezuu Monastery under the auspices of the Presidents of the two countries. Since then, cooperation in the field of archeology between our two countries has been progressing.

During my office as Ambassador, I initiated the restoration of archaeological finds in cooperation with Germany. The German side restored a birch bark manuscript discovered in the Khar Bukh Balgash and just before he visited Mongolia, President Roman Herzog personally visited an exhibition at the University of Bonn where the restored finding was displayed.

- You mentioned our active collaboration with Germany in archaeology, and it's fascinating to reflect on the historical ties between Mongolia and Germany. A century ago, Mongolia looked to Germany for the training of its first intellectuals. Interestingly, this partnership has evolved, and today, we observe a growing educational alliance between the two nations. The increasing number of young individuals proficient in German and eager to learn the language is a testament to the expanding cooperation in education.

- During the unification of East and West Germany, approximately 500 students from our Technical and Vocational School (now the Vocational Training Center) were studying in Democratic Germany. West Germany implemented a commendable program, supporting these students until their graduation. What began in East Germany persisted through the reunification, resulting in more than 30,000 German - speaking individuals in Mongolia during the German Democratic Republic period. Considering Mongolia's population was less than three million at the time, this was a substantial figure. Studies indicate that over 40,000 individuals have received education in Germany so far, underscoring the significant contribution Germans have made to our education landscape. Nowadays, more and more people go to Germany seeking degrees.

In the past, university students frequently attended vocational training in Germany. Currently, a branch of the Goethe Institute of Germany operates in Mongolia, offering German language training in universities, colleges, and both public and private general education schools. Additionally, a joint Mongolian-German university, specializing in mining and minerals, successfully operates in Nalaikh district of the capital of Mongolia.

- The Federal President of Germany is going to pay a State Visit to our country. As someone who dedicated his youth to fostering Mongolia-Germany relations, how do you envision the benefits of this visit? What will be its significance in politics and other fields?

- There is an unwritten law that every government visit has great importance and benefits. During President Ochirbat Punsalmaa's visit, the Joint Statement on the basis of relations between the Federal Republic of Germany and Mongolia was signed. Subsequently, in 2008, when Federal President of Germany Horst Köhler visited Mongolia, he signed the document on Comprehensive Partnership. This marked the beginning of many years of comprehensive partnership between the two countries. Hence, I believe it is an opportune moment to elevate it to the level of a strategic partnership. The first talks about upgrading the partnership to this level began in 2015, and we cannot deny that these discussions will likely materialize during the State Visit.

Federal President of Germany Frank-Walter Steinmeier visited Mongolia when he was the Minister of Foreign Affairs. Therefore, I understand that the proposal and initiative to visit Mongolia started from the German side.

Beyond doubt, this visit serves as a testament to our country's independent, wise, and stable policy. It is a concrete illustration of the success of Mongolia's third neighbor policy. Additionally, it mirrors the friendly and trusting attitude of our primary European partner.

- What, in your view, is a sector where cooperation needs improvement to foster stronger relations between our two countries?

- When it comes to political, cultural, and humanitarian ties, Mongolia and Germany enjoy a positive rapport with promising prospects for further development. However, in comparison, I perceive the economy, trade, and investment sectors as somewhat underdeveloped and weak. This is a point I frequently emphasize during discussions with my German friends. Personally, I'm optimistic that the upcoming Visit will catalyze progress in these areas.

Considering Germany's status as one of the world's leading exporters, there's significant potential for mutual benefit if we enhance our collaboration in the economic and trade domains. Our focus should be on not only benefiting from Germany but also on boosting our own exports. Expanding our business relationship is essential.

Furthermore, there's an untapped opportunity in the tourism industry, particularly thanks to the existence of direct flights. Streamlining visa procedures and adopting a pricing policy for plane tickets could lead to a substantial increase in European tourists interested in visiting Mongolia via Germany, and beyond. Hence, I believe there should be more extensive discussions and talks in this field.

What is your most memorable moment in Germany?

- The fondest memories often trace back to our youth, and for me, those years as a diplomat in East Germany shine the brightest. Later, during my tenure as Ambassador in Bonn, my children grew up, attending school, and my recollections are dominated by the times I engaged with representatives of the German government. It's the moments tied to official duties that stand out vividly.

- What influenced you to become a diplomat?

- I graduated from the Moscow State Institute of International Relations in 1967-1972, specializing in German-speaking countries. Back then, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs had a rigorous selection process for its personnel, specializing them in specific fields and hiring them upon graduation.

When I finished secondary school, my dream was to become a writer and journalist. My passion for literature began early – I published my first poem in the newspaper of my aimag in the sixth grade, and in the ninth grade, I wrote and staged a children's play at the cultural center of my aimag.

The year I graduated from secondary school, I chose the Mongolian language and literature class because I was not accepted into the journalism class of the National University of Mongolia. In my third year, an employee from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs approached me, inviting me to take the exam for admission to the Moscow State Institute of International Relations.

That is how I changed my dream of becoming a journalist and writer and started to study as a diplomat. I do not regret it at all. Thanks to this rewarding profession, I served as a diplomat from 1972 to 2009, contributing significantly to strengthening my country's diplomatic service. A significant part of these years was dedicated to activities related to Mongolia-Germany relations.

- You mentioned your childhood dream of becoming a writer and journalist, expressing your fondness for writing poetry. Have you ever tried writing poetry in German?

- When I found myself in a foreign land, the nostalgia for my home country and old friends often overwhelmed me. During those times, I used to write poems as a way to refresh and comfort myself. Most of the poems in my composition "An Offering to My Land " and my literature collection titled "Soul Portrait" vividly depict my yearning for my homeland. However, I never ventured into writing and publishing poems in German.

- Foreigners say that learning Mongolian is difficult. Is it difficult to learn German?

- I believe Mongolians possess a natural aptitude for quickly grasping and adapting to new things, including learning foreign languages. Given the richness of Mongolian phonetics and pronunciation, picking up a foreign language does not appear to be a significant hurdle. However, it is worth noting that while there is a general talent for language learning, patience can sometimes be lacking, and consistent effort is crucial for deepening knowledge and mastery.

- What specific qualities do you admire about Germany and its people?

- Well, Germans are inherently known for their strong sense of responsibility and principles in everything they do. Punctuality, in particular, is a notable trait – fulfilling obligations on time is a defining quality. Their ability to create a beautiful living environment is also quite remarkable.

Mongolians who have completed their studies in Germany tend to absorb these admirable qualities, becoming highly businesslike, faithful to their duties, disciplined, and driven to achieve their goals. It's quite evident when interacting with individuals who've studied in Germany. In essence, there is much to gain from Germans’ exceptional sense of responsibility, both in their personal lives and professional endeavors.

- Thank you for taking the time to talk with MONTSAME.

- Thank you. Federal President of Germany Mr. Frank-Walter Steinmeier has officially announced his Visit to Mongolia. This Visit of the Head of State of Germany, our trusted and reliable friend and main partner in Europe, holds significant importance. I hope this Visit strengthens political, cultural, educational, and humanitarian ties between our countries. Furthermore, I wish for productive business dialogues that will serve as a crucial stimulus for economic and investment cooperation, leading to tangible results.

Related news