“I am not so worried about Islamists in the new Government”
Holger Green was born in 1951 in Bernburg, Germany. After completing his masters degree in mathematics and geography from Aachen and Johannes-Gutenberg-University Mainz, he joined the Federal Ministry for Foreign Affairs in 1977.
His first post outside Germany was in Beijing where he worked for around three years at the cultural department of the German embassy. His second external posting was between 1985 and 1988 as deputy head of the German embassy in Kathmandu in Nepal, from where he was posted to Japan where he served at the German embassy’s economic department until 1991.
The following three years he spent in Paris as deputy head of the economic department at the German embassy and after that returned to Germany and worked for another three years as deputy director of the East Asia Foreign Affairs division.
Heading back to Beijing between 1997 and 2004, Green first worked as head of the cultural department and then as head of the economic department of the embassy; then he returned to Germany where he headed a division in the United Nations affairs and then the communication and public relations division at the Foreign Ministry. His first posting as ambassador was in the Kyrgyz Republic between 2008 and 2011 and he commenced his work as ambassador of the Federal German in Yemen since September 2011.
In addition to German he speaks fluent English, French and has a good command of Chinese and Russian. He is married to Doris and has one adult son.
At the June 2010 meeting of the "Friends of Yemen" working group in Berlin, Minister of State Werner Hoyer said: “Friends of Yemen" is not about money. It is not yet another donor conference. It is mainly about generating political commitment in Yemen and outside Yemen to address and to try to resolve the most pressing issues in a joint effort.”
Your comments on that?
The Friends of Yemen are a group of states, which from 2010 onwards have supported your country in overcoming its difficult political situation. They are co-chaired by the United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia and Yemen. These three countries together are presently taking the necessary steps to revive this political process, which stalled in March 2011.
What the then German Minister of State said in 2010 still is valid today. It is a common understanding among the Friends of Yemen that their mandate it is to support Yemen mainly in the political field.
But the Yemeni government’s number one priority seems today is to generate emergency funding to support the national budget and save the country from collapse.
I fully understand the priorities of the Government of Yemen; there are obviously huge budget shortcomings. And these need to be addressed. But I do not think that this will be done through the Friends of Yemen process, which is to remain an instrument for political support.
But don't forget that many of the Friends of Yemen countries are at the same time the largest donors of development assistance. Their support to Yemen will come through the usual channels of assistance.
Does Germany have a specific role in the FoY group?
Germany has been a long-standing partner of Yemen and also has been active in the FoY group. In the past, we have in particular taken care of the Governance and Economy working group, which we co-chaired with the United Arab Emirates. We will have to see which results the forthcoming high-level FoY conference will produce.
In my view, it is crucial for the sustainable success of the FoY process that there is a permanent and focussed follow-up to high-level meetings, to which my country is willing to participate.
Are the embassy’s operations back in full swing? What about its support to Yemen?
Well, the Embassy is on a good way back to normal operations, but not all staff members are back yet. We officially reopened the Embassy on January 31 and started issuing visa in urgent political, humanitarian, economic and cultural cases. I hope that in the next months we will get additional staff, so that we can operate normally in summer.
In January I announced, together with the Country Director of the World Food Program, that Germany was supporting the WFP activities in Yemen in the order of €23 million in years 2011/2012. In additional to this we will start new development assistant projects. Projects to be agreed upon with the Yemeni Government in the next few weeks are even higher than the €25 million.
We are presently preparing three new programs in the amount of €35 million. These are projects to improve the health of mothers and children, to get damaged water works running again and to repair and construct schools for primary and secondary education.
Altogether there are €265 million available for projects in Yemen from earlier commitment, which so far have not been utilized. These funds could be mobilized relatively fast, provided the security situation permits activities in the envisaged project areas.
You were reported in the media to be concerned that Saleh’s presence in Yemen might affect the transition. How do you feel about this issue today?
It certainly helped that the former President Saleh was outside of the country during the transition of power. It was completed successfully with the early elections on 21st February. The unexpectedly high voter's turnout confirms that President Hadi assumed his office with the full backing of the Yemeni people. Obviously, it is longing for a return to normalcy.
Ali Abdullah Saleh has come back on the very day, when President Hadi swore the oath of office, and we have to see which role he is going to play. The international community will continue to monitor the situation carefully; we hope that all political actors will abide by Security Council Resolution 2014 of last year and the GCC initiative.
Germany has been very open to dealing with the opposition from the very beginning, eg. visits to Change Square when no other diplomat would do that. Are you dealing with today’s opposition the same way?
Well, the interim Government comprises the GPC and the JMP; today's opposition are groups which have been outside of the political transition process like the youth, women, Al Hirak and the Houthis. We, together with our partners in the European Union and others, have been engaging with these groups.
I flew to Aden in December together with some EU colleagues to encourage representatives of the South to constructively participate in the forthcoming national dialogue. We did so also in February, when we were in Sa’ada to talk to the Houthi movement, including its leader Abdulmalik Al-Houthi.
We also engage with youth and women groups here in Sana’a and other cities. We firmly believe, Yemen can overcome its difficult political, economic and security situation only, if all relevant political forces actively work together.
Are you not worried of the rise of the Islamists in the new regime especially since Al-Qaeda seems to be gaining grounds in the south?
I am not so worried about Islamists in the new Government. In Islah party there are many reasonable people. I am more worried about the lack of security in many parts of the country, which allow fundamentalist terrorists to gain ground. I hope that the Government will find the right strategy to effectively curb their terroristic activities, which have already cost the lives of so many Yemenis.
Do you think - considering that both Yemen and Germany share some similar history through the unification- that a Federal system the German way will work for Yemen?
Even if there are certain similarities between our two countries, the political system of one country usually cannot be used as a blue print for the system of another. But I am sure that many Yemeni would prefer a system, where decisions are not taken at the central, but at a more local level.
Therefore, Yemen should study our constitutional system and our federal structure as well as those of other countries, take what seems applicable to Yemen and adapt it to the realities of your country. Germany stands ready to support these efforts.