Dilshad Barzani — KRG Representative in Germany
What is your key message to the German business community?
The lack of trained staff in Kurdistan is a negative factor. However, the process of democratization, the business boom, the ethnic and religious tolerance, the social progress, and especially the stable security situation are our foundation, and offer major opportunities to German business in all areas.
Germany can only benefit from closer collaboration– from our dynamic economy, energy resources, stability, and good relationships with our neighbors, and, of course, as a gateway to the rest of Iraq.
We can see many positive developments, yet we still have an enormous amount of work to do. Companies need legal security, prospects, and infrastructure. But even under good conditions, the first steps in a far-away country are always bold steps. Therefore, it is crucial that companies can be certain of having a solid, reliable partner in Kurdistan and being able to rely on local conditions. Germany and German workmanship have an excellent reputation, and it is time to utilize it.
Which of Kurdistan's economic sectors have German businesses found the most success in? Which offer most future potential?
Several large German industrial firms are active in various areas of electricity supply, while others are active in water supply. Kurdistan presents tremendous opportunities to German businesses, especially in areas such as construction, infrastructure, transportation, logistics, services, environmental technology, agricultural technology, healthcare, water management, waste disposal, and many others. We are highly interested in German companies that would enrich the Region with high quality and innovative products and services.
Dr. Mustafa Ramazan Goran — KRG Representative in Austria
How would you characterize the commercial ties between both sides?
A number of Austrian companies are already making use of the vast commercial opportunities the Kurdistan Region has to offer. Austrian Airlines was the first international carrier to offer direct flights to Erbil in 2006, contributing immensely in connecting Kurdistan with the rest of the world. Other prominent examples of Austrian commercial activity are the energy company OMV, and Doppelmayr, who built cable cars on Korek Mountain and in Slemani, and is currently working on another project in Duhok. Aside from these projects, our office meets daily with smaller Austrian companies who are showing an increasing interest in the Kurdistan Region’s business opportunities. Although at the beginning there was naturally a bit of reluctance due to the unstable security situation in some parts of Iraq, these reservations have largely been overcome thanks to information exchange and firsthand visits to the Kurdistan Region. Our goal now is to promote B2B opportunities between Austria and the Kurdistan Region.
Do you work with the Austrian commercial office in Erbil or other business groups with an interest in Kurdistan?
The existence of an Austrian commercial office in Erbil as well as the active participation of Austrian companies in the numerous trade fairs, too, underline the great interest Austrian companies are showing in the Kurdistan Region. We plan to organize sector-focused events in the coming months, as we firmly believe that the Kurdistan Region’s agriculture and tourism sectors, which are defined as priority sectors by our government, could benefit greatly from extensive Austrian expertise and experience in these fields.
Rezan Kader — KRG Representative in Italy
In which sectors in Kurdistan have Italian businesses found the most success?
Italy has the highest number of commercial exchanges with Iraq of any European country and is third in terms of export volume to the Region. Italian exports to Iraq and the Kurdistan Region have followed a trend of growth that is continuing to increase. Italian entrepreneurs are increasingly interested in investing in Kurdistan, largely thanks to the 2006 Investment Law. The main areas of interest and active participation of Italian businesses are construction, infrastructure, and energy. For example, FG Tecnopolo, an Italian engineering firm, designed the city of Erbil’s underground network, and Italian architects and engineers will be designing the new KRG Ministry of Education in Erbil. The areas on which we must focus increasingly are engineering, infrastructure, agribusiness, pharmaceuticals, energy, and tourism.
What is your key message to the Italian business community?
Kurdistan can provide a springboard for a new cycle of growth for the Italian business community. There are currently 50 Italian companies with a presence in the Kurdistan Region, a number that represents a trend of significant growth over the last few years. Our key message to the Italian business community is to exploit the huge investment opportunities in Kurdistan. Italian businesses that enter Kurdistan will receive extensive support from our Representation, as well as the Italian National Construction Association, which organizes regular missions to the Region, and the Italian Consulate in Erbil, which provides Italian businesses with trade and insurance services.
Daban Shadala — KRG Representative in Spain
Which of Kurdistan’s economic sectors offer the most potential for Spanish entrepreneurs?
Having built a close relationship with Spain’s Ministry of Economy & Competitiveness and the ICEX, we determined that the four primary sectors that offer the most potential to Spanish investors and entrepreneurs are construction, agriculture, education, and tourism.
What targets do you have for future economic cooperation between Spain and the Kurdistan Region?
We aim to hold a conference related specifically to the targeted economic sectors in which we feel Spain has a lot to offer and invite leading businessmen, experts, and government officials from the Region to participate. Moreover, we will be approaching various chambers of commerce all over Spain in order to present the economic situation of the Region along with the potential areas of opportunity for their members. We will be leading trade delegations to visit Kurdistan. An objective of ours is to strengthen economic cooperation by matchmaking potential partners to begin joint ventures. We will be encouraging companies to attend trade fairs in Erbil where they can meet their Kurdish counterparts and network amongst decision makers of the Region.
Where do you see Kurdish-Spanish relations in the medium term, in terms of opportunities?
We will work to develop even stronger bonds with Spain. We will touch upon areas where there is potential for cooperation to ensure a closer relationship. Once Spain emerges from the economic crisis, I am sure we will see a consulate opened in Erbil, as there is a high level of interest from senior officials in the government to do so. Opening a Spanish consulate would facilitate a drastic increase in the Spanish presence in Erbil.
Shorsh Kadir Rahem — KRG Representative in Sweden
How would you characterize commercial relations between Sweden and Kurdistan?
The commercial relations between Kurdistan and Sweden are emerging. Swedish companies invest in the reconstruction process in Kurdistan. Swedish enterprises like Scania, Ericsson, and Volvo are all established in Kurdistan. For us, Sweden’s contribution to the development of Kurdistan can be even more successful if the vast human resources available in Sweden are used.
Where do you see relations between the KRG and the Swedish government headed in the medium term?
Since February 2014, the KRG in Sweden has welcomed two high delegations from the KRG, the first one headed by the Minister of Agriculture and the other led by the Minister of Labor. We focused on future cooperation in the agricultural and industrial sectors, but we would also like to improve existing agreements between Swedish and Kurdish authorities.
Today, the international community understands that Kurdistan is an indispensible region for peace and stability in the Middle East. For the KRG in Sweden, it is important to promote what makes Kurdistan indispensible. We will continue to promote the intrinsic bound that joins Kurdistan and Sweden and work to develop these relations even further.
Delavar Ajgeiy — Head of the KRG Mission to the EU
What kind of year was 2014 in terms of EU-Kurdistan relations?
2014 was a productive year for KRG-EU relations. The European Commission opened its Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection (ECHO) office in Erbil to assist IDPs in Kurdistan. In terms of political relations, several high-level bilateral visits from both sides occurred. Several resolutions were adopted by the European Parliament on the Kurdistan Region, and the large majority of MPs expressed their support for and solidarity with the Kurdistan Region. In 2014, we also established European Friends of Kurdistan in the European Parliament. The main mission of this group is to increase awareness about Kurdistan in the EU and to enhance KRG-EU relations.
What are your Mission’s plans for 2015?
Our focus is to establish a stronger relationship with the European Commission and to convince the EU to open its diplomatic office in Erbil in 2015. In cooperation with European Friends of Kurdistan, we will organize study trips to the Kurdistan Region to establish a better dialogue with the Kurdistan Parliament and the KRG. The KRG Mission to the EU will continue to promote Kurdistan's culture and diversity in the EU. To that end, our Mission will organize several cultural events such as a Kurdish New Year (Newroz) celebration in cooperation with our friends in the European Parliament.
Khaman Zirar Asaad — KRG Representative in France
French firms are among the most active foreign players in Kurdistan. How has your office helped to facilitate this investment?
French companies are currently well represented in Kurdistan, but a substantial margin for expansion remains. Numerous other profitable investments are available to our French partners. The flagship firms of French industry are currently highly visible in the economic landscape of Kurdistan: Lafarge in the cement works sector, Total in energy, Orange in telecom, Carrefour & Auchan in mass-scale food retailing, and so on, but we hope to see small and medium-sized French enterprises invest more heavily in Kurdistan. Kurdistan was at one point the fruit basket and granary of the entire region; it must become so once again. Our citizens should not settle for being consumers, but must also become producers. This is possible through partnerships with French companies with the goal of acquiring their know-how and expertise, which are crucial in this phase of our economic development. For example, an agreement was signed to this effect with the French Region of Dordogne. We are also in contact with the Brittany region.
Where do you believe French investment in the Region will head in the future?
We believe that France – a pioneering and highly dynamic country in the food industry – should invest more in this sector. The same is true of tourism. Kurdistan, which has enormous potential in this sector, should take France as an example in this area also, by showcasing its rich past, straddling three major civilizations, and its historical heritage as a means of projecting itself into the future and the modern world.