GERMAN EMBASSY IN PORT MORESBY TO CLOSE

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By Phil-Peers Yombon

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (Oct. 29, 1999 – The National)---The Germany embassy in Papua New Guinea will be closed within the next two weeks while the important German non-governmental organization, Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, closes down its operations here today.

Acting German Ambassador Jurgen Lubczyk said yesterday that since Germany was facing serious financial problems, the German Government had decided to close down its office here.

He said that the German Government had also closed down four embassies in Africa, 20 consulates-general and consular agencies around the world, among which PNG is the only country in the entire Pacific.

Mr. Lubczyk said all diplomatic functions between PNG and Germany would be transferred to the German embassy in Canberra, Australia.

The leading donor agency that has supported many NGO and Government projects, the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES) Foundation, decided to close its office today, also due to financial difficulties.

The head of FES, Bernhard Barth, said yesterday that its PNG functions would be transferred to its office in Jakarta, Indonesia.

Although most of the incomplete projects will be coordinated from the Jakarta office, the rate of funding for PNG projects in the future will be reduced.

Both the German embassy and FES have been very active in supporting PNG technically.

Mr. Lubczyk said the closedown decision was made by the German Government's foreign ministry two weeks ago.

He said it costs more than K 1million (US$ 376,000) to run the embassy here every year.

Although official diplomatic relations between PNG and Germany were first established in 1980, PNG and Germany are linked closely by history over more than 100 years ago.

Mr. Lubczyk said he would soon release an official statement on closing down the embassy.

The decisions to close down the embassy and FES were made against the recommendations of many non-governmental organizations and politicians, as there are many incomplete projects sponsored by the German embassy.

Among others, the PNG Institute of International Affairs and Southern Highlands Governor Anderson Agiru have expressed regret over the closure of the two offices.

German organizations that have been assisting PNG in its development endeavors include: the German Technical Development Cooperation Agency, German Society of Cooperation Services, German Political Foundations, Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, Hans Seidel Foundation and such Christian churches as the Lutheran Church of Germany.

There are more than 500 German residents in the country.

Meanwhile, the head of the German Technical Development Cooperation Agency (GTZ), Horst Hansel, said that since his organization does not fall under the German Foreign Ministry, it would not close down its office here.

He said its presence here was based on an agreement between the PNG Government and the German Government's International Financial Support Ministry.

Mr. Hansel said the agreement between PNG and GTZ would be reviewed in mid-2001.

For additional reports from The National, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/The National (Papua New Guinea).

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