Vice President of the Hamburg Parliament,
Welcome to Hamburg, particularly at this time of year; as every autumn Hamburg becomes the hot spot for Latin American events in Germany!
Featuring a wide range of artistic and political events, our Latin American autumn festival is something special. For a number of years now, it has been bringing the countries and cultures of the Caribbean and Latin America closer to us on the Elbe and Alster.
The close ties we have to Latin America are essential to our identity as a trading city. This relationship dates back to the 17th century; and in 1827 Hamburg was the first city to grant official recognition to the new states of Latin America. During this period the business relationships established with the young independent states of the continent were a major factor in Hamburg’s economic growth.
This success story has continued to the present day, also as regards Panama: nearly 140 Hamburg companies have regular business relationships with your country.
Just recently we celebrated the 100th anniversary of the Latin America Club. Since its foundation in 1916 by Hanseatic businessmen, the headquarters of the club have remained in Hamburg. It continues to offer support to companies on both sides of the Atlantic, initiating new contacts and helping to strengthen existing relationships – all organised with the expertise, reliability and commitment of its members. The Latin America club also functions as a meeting point, place of support and network for Panamanian companies.
Every two years the most important conference on German-Latin American business relations takes place here in Hamburg – jointly organised by the Latin America Club and the Hamburg Chamber of Commerce. This successful forum, called „The Latin America Day“ was also established nearly one hundred years ago.
In addition to the fields of culture, politics and trade, Hamburg is also engaged in an ongoing dialogue with Latin America in the areas of education and science. One example I would like to mention here
is – GIGA: The German Institute of Global and Area Studies, which in the course of half a century has developed into an important centre for European research on Latin America.
Word of Hamburg’s Latin American expertise has spread far and wide, also to Brussels. Which is why, in 2010, the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean, together with all the EU member states chose Hamburg as the location for the headquarters of the new EU–LAC Foundation. For nearly five years now, the foundation has been strengthening the ties between the 33 states of Latin America and the Caribbean and the EU and its member states. I hope that Panama will also play an active role in this young institution, and that you, Mr. President, will continue to support the work of the EU-LAC foundation.
Dear Mr President,
As you can see our relations are based on a solid foundation. This can also help sustain us through challenges we face, such as those which arose in the wake of the disclosures uncovered in the so-called Panama Papers. Each of us must now work towards reducing illegal financial transactions and tax evasion – which is in everyone’s interest.
Also in this context, it is good to see that our relationship has proven itself to have a solid basis. Both your country and our city – surrounded as we are by so much water, can appreciate the value of this.
Although Hamburg cannot compete with Panama’s five ports on two oceans, we are a major European port and logistics hub and share many things in common – even if the dimensions are somewhat different. If Hamburg can be said to be “the gateway to the world”, then Panama can claim to be “the gateway where the worlds come together”. Not only in the figurative sense, but also quite literally: Panama is the connecting link between two oceans and two continents; the free trade area Colón is the second largest duty-free zone in the world. Or to quote your own words, Mr President: Panama continues to fulfil its “historic mission as a transit route.“
Ladies and gentlemen,
Dear Mr President,
While we in Hamburg are currently overcoming the final obstacles to the planned deepening of the Elbe, this summer you celebrated the inauguration of the Panama canal expansion after nine years of construction work. This is a milestone for the future of world trade. And I am sure that the completion of the canal expansion was a particular joy for you not only as Panama’s president, but also as an engineer.
In order to remain competitive on the global market, the major shipping and logistics hubs have to adapt to the changes in transport conditions and vessel sizes. There is a name for the ship’s dimension, which has raised the bar for everyone: and that name is „Panamax“.
And just like the canal, this name has also been expanded: starting off as simply „Panamax“, then to „Post“- and „Super-Post-Panamax“ to the current „New Panamax“. For those ships wishing to pass through the canal, this has now become the crucial vessel size.
Finally, let me say that we Hamburgers can nevertheless draw comfort from the fact that big changes sometimes start off with small steps. So I believe the exchange of soccer youth trainers between the Hamburger SV Soccer Club and Panama to be very encouraging. A good basis for this exchange already exists here. Because Panama is so well-known by German children and young people – your country has quite literally had a storybook career and a presence in children’s bedrooms all over Germany: generations of young soccer fans have grown up with the wonderful storybook for children by the author and illustrator Janosch, with the title “Oh, wie schön ist Panama.“ Or to give it its literal English translation – Oh, how beautiful Panama is.
Dear Mr. President,
Finally, once again, on behalf of the Senate of The Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg, welcome!