Dirk Lölke is an accomplished diplomat. After studying classical philology and history, he entered the higher Foreign Service, serving at key positions in the Federal Foreign Office, the German Embassy in Belgrade, and the European Commission.
Lölke’s leadership roles include the Federal Chancellery and the German Embassy in Rome. As Ambassador in Luanda, Angola, from 2018 to 2021, he showcased his diplomatic acumen and then led the Inspection Team in Berlin (2021-2023).
Lölke now serves as an Ambassador in Muscat, Oman, leveraging his extensive experience to enhance international relations in the Gulf region.
Germany and Oman have a long history of close and friendly relations. What specific initiatives or areas of focus do you see as essential for enhancing the bilateral relationship between Germany and Oman?
Dirk Lölke: I am still a relatively new ambassador, but I have already seen that Germany has excellent and friendly relationships with the Sultanate of Oman. His Majesty, Sultan Haitham came for his first visit to Europe as a Sultan in July 2022 to Berlin. It was the first-ever official visit of the Sultan of Oman to Germany. We were deeply honored by this decision. It gave a new impulse to our relations. Now, end of November 2023, we have seen the visit of the German Federal President Steinmeier to Muscat and Nizwa. This quick return visit underscores our commitment to strong political and economic ties.
I have already seen that Germany has excellent and friendly relationships with the Sultanate of OmanDirk Lölke
I see three priorities for the work of the German Embassy: First, develop the economic relationship. This would mean more German enterprises being active in Oman and more German investment. Secondly, it would be fruitful to foster the high-level exchange of assessments on political questions, regarding Oman’s foreign policy in the region and its well-established reputation of keeping friendly contact with all countries in the region and beyond. Thirdly, we will aim to promote academic exchange by fostering collaboration between Omani and German universities in Oman and by encouraging Omani students to pursue education at universities in Germany.
The cultural and educational exchange programs between Germany and Oman have seen substantial growth. How do you envision the future of these exchanges, and what role do you see cultural and educational cooperation playing in fostering stronger ties?
Dirk Lölke: We have in Muscat in Shatti Al Qurum an excellent Goethe Institute for German Language Training. The German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) oversees scholarships for Germany and has representatives at Omani universities. There are Omani schools and Universities which offer German language courses. So, fortunately, there is already a considerable amount of cultural and educational exchange. We aim to develop this further and, in particular, encourage Omani students to pursue education in Germany, where we offer high-quality public universities that are quite affordable due to the absence of tuition fees.
We are very grateful to the German University of Technology in Oman, the GUTech, a private Omani university that collaborates for its curricula with the Technical University in AachenDirk Lölke
We are very grateful to the German University of Technology in Oman, the GUTech, a private Omani university that collaborates for its curricula with the Technical University in Aachen (Aix la Chapelle). The RWTH Aachen is a major technical university in the West of Germany. The Omani students go there for internships or continue their studies in Germany at other universities. The GUtech focuses on engineering, economics, and medicine. They are about to establish a master’s course on hydrogen. It is noteworthy that the majority of its students are female. I have heard that they are in demand in the labour market in Oman.
The economic partnership between Germany and Oman is significant, with strong German investments and trade relations. Could you share your perspective on the current economic collaboration between the two nations and any future plans to expand it?
Dirk Lölke: I believe this is an area where Germany should be more ambitious. There are very active competitors around the world. Oman seems to attract a lot of business people looking for opportunities. The German philosophy is more like leaving it to free enterprise to decide where to go. There is support from the government available, but no central planning by the government as in the case of some other countries.
As I said, there is a lot of interest in Germany for Oman. The Embassy collaborates with the Muscat branch office of our regional Chamber of Commerce in Dubai. Some other neighboring countries in the Gulf area like Saudi Arabia or the UAE are also very interesting for German enterprise. So, our task is to attract attention to Oman, because of its geographical position and the ambition and strategic thinking of its government.
Our task is to attract attention to Oman, because of its geographical position and the ambition and strategic thinking of its governmentDirk Lölke
How do you plan to encourage and support environmental and renewable energy partnerships between Germany and Oman, considering their mutual importance?
Dirk Lölke: We have established a so-called energy dialogue between the two governments. It takes place periodically to structure our cooperation, marking the initial phase of a genuine strategic partnership in this field.
In Berlin, there is a recognition that Oman has really committed itself to renewables and aims to be a significant producer of green hydrogen, green steel, and other products. We are in close contact with the Ministry of Energy and the Ministry of Commerce, Industry, and Investment Promotion, as well as other relevant agencies. The decision for German enterprises to engage in Oman rests with the companies themselves. However, a clear statement from the German government, which is indeed heavily invested in hydrogen and hydrogen technology, could significantly aid the development.
Germany is prioritizing green hydrogen and its technologyDirk Lölke
Germany is prioritizing green hydrogen and its technology. Since we will not be able to produce enough green hydrogen in Germany, the federal government is currently drafting an import strategy, which will be finalized early next year. I am hopeful that Oman will be in this strategy.
What are your expectations regarding the development of new Omani-German partnerships?
Dirk Lölke: It would be good to enhance people-to-people contacts. In Germany, Oman is known for its beauty, tranquillity, and tolerance. Tourism will grow. In March 2024, Oman will be the guest country at the Berlin International Tourist Fair (ITB), which is one of the largest in Europe. This will attract more German tourists. On this issue, we are also working closely with the Omani Embassy in Berlin. Additionally, as I have mentioned, academic and professional exchange should be a way to broaden experience and knowledge about each other.
We feel that a waiver for Schengen visas for Omani citizens should come as soon as possible. The necessary process in Brussels is to be taken up again after the elections to the European Parliament, in mid-2024.