Business as usual for German-Iranian Chamber of Commerce
German-Iranian Chamber of Commerce still promotes Iran trade.
Photo: AP [file]
Ignoring moral appeals from German Chancellor Angela Merkel to curtail trade with Iran, the German-Iranian Chamber of Commerce held a workshop on Thursday to improve business ties between German firms and the Islamic Republic.
During the workshop, held in Hamburg under the title "Iran sanctions and practical implications for German firms," top-level representatives of the German-Iranian commerce sector advised mid-size German companies about expanding trade with Iran.
In its invitation letter, the Hamburg-based German-Iranian chamber of commerce wrote: "Our chamber wishes to support you, even in difficult times, in market development in Iran.
"We would be pleased if you would come to us with questions on the market situation, search for representatives, transaction processing and permit issues in Germany and Iran, and we can thus contribute to the success of your business in Iran."
Asked whether the workshop contradicted the position of the Merkel administration, Michael Tockuss, the director of the GICC, told The Jerusalem Post: "Not at all," adding that the purpose of the program was to inform small and medium-sized business about how to comply with sanctions imposed on Iran.
Sissi Gerstenkorn, from the company Euler Hermes, declined to return calls from the Post regarding her talk at the workshop, titled "Export credit guarantee coverage."
A co-worker of Gerstenkorn's told the Post that Euler Hermes represented the German government in allocating credit guarantees for trade.
Dr. Thomas Scheuermann, vice president of the GICC and member of the German-Iranian lawyers' association, delivered a talk on "Civil legal aspects for German firms in Iranian trade."
When asked about his presentation, Scheuermann declined to comment and told the Post: "You work for Israel."
According to the political scientist Matthias KÃ¼ntzel, a German-Iranian trade expert, the GICC has close ties with the Iranian Bank Saderat, which the US blacklisted in 2006 due to its relationships with terrorist organizations such as Hizbullah and Hamas. Bank Saderat, along with Dresdner Bank, is listed on the GICC invitation letter as a partnership bank.
Responding to a query by the Post, a Merkel administration spokesman reiterated the position taken by the government at its press conference August, 2008: "The government is expecting some sensitivity from businesses," and moral considerations should play a role when dealing with the Iranian regime.
Questioned about the Euler Hermes credit guarantee specialist Gerstenkorn, who had represented the Merkel administration at the workshop, the spokesman declined to comment.
Asked if firms should adhere to Merkel's moral guideline, GICC director Tockuss said: "Each company has to decide for itself" whether or not it wanted to cut deals with Iran.
Peter Scharfe, a businessman who represented his firm Orbis International Gmbh at the seminar, asked the Post: "What is immoral" about "delivering machines and [pharmaceutical] pills to Iran?" and added that German firms could supply their goods via the trade hub of Dubai.
Jonathan Weckerle, a spokesman for Stop the Bomb, a non-partisan political advocacy organization seeking to prevent Iran from producing a nuclear weapon and to end German-Iranian business relations, said in a statement issued on Wednesday: "The chancellor's appeals to the 'moral responsibility' of German businesspeople predictably have [had] no results. The federal government's explanations of the dangers of the Iranian regime and on [the need for] solidarity with Israel are not credible if not even business dealings that often directly support the Iranian regime are effectively prevented through economic sanctions, or the Hermes credit guarantees officially ended as a clear political signal."
Members of Stop the Bomb, the German-Israeli friendship society and Hamburger Studienbibliothek, a Hamburg-based political group combating anti-Semitism, protested against the workshop in the Atlantic Hotel Kempinski.
According to Stop the Bomb, the organization had asked the 107 members of the German-Israeli parliamentary group in the Bundestag to sign a petition in support of severing federal credit guarantees for trade with Iran, banning Hizbullah in Germany and ending German-Iranian trade relations. Green Party MP and head of the group Jerzy Montag had declined to support the initiative, according to Green MP and member of the group Kerstin MÃ¼ller, who has also declined to support the call for unilateral German-based sanctions against Iran.
Montag refused to answer calls and e-mail queries and also turned down a request for the names of the MPs who are members of the group. But a Christian Democratic Union party member was willing to provide the names to the Post. According to Montag's Web page, one of the goals of the German-Israeli parliamentary group was "to place in the foreground the friendly relationship with Israel."
Of the group's 107 members, only three MPs signed Stop the Bomb's petition.