FRANKFURT, Germany: The event at the Marriott Frankfurt last weekend was aptly themed “Milestones, Memories and Merdeka” and the 300 guests at the gala dinner to celebrate Malaysia’s 60th National Day were treated to food and cultural performances with a throwback to events that served to foster relations between Malaysia and Germany over the years.
The event, jointly organised by the Malaysian Consulate in Frankfurt with the Malaysian Club Deutschland (MCD), which also celebrated its 20th anniversary, also commemorated 60 years of diplomatic ties between the two countries.
For Malaysian consul general Adina Kamarudin, the gala dinner marked a high note in her three-year posting in Frankfurt.
She delivered her speech fluently in German, peppering it with jokes that tickled the German guests no end, but on a serious note, during her posting, she said, she had seen positive developments in not only bilateral relations, but also relations in the Malaysian community.
“My posting has been a learning experience in bilateral relations between the two countries.
“I have seen an intensive growth in economy with an increase in German investments in Malaysia, while we are also trying to increase Malaysian investments in Germany,” she said.
Indeed, she mentioned the milestones achieved starting from the establishment of the Goethe-Institut in Malaya in 1958, the Investment Guarantee Agreement between the two countries in 1960, cooperation in the field of education, right up to the establishment of the Consulate General in Frankfurt in 2007.
“One of the earliest German investments in Malaysia was by Hamburg-based Behn Meyer, which started trading in Penang in 1891.
“Today, Behn Meyer Malaysia is a well-established group with nine companies, supported by a network of branches and distribution centres throughout the country.
“The company’s total investment in Malaysia is valued at more than
US$1.72 billion (RM7.24 billion) with employment of 2,400 people,” she told guests, which included City Councillor Claus Mobius and town representatives from Frankfurt and Wiesbaden, as well as from Malaysians who had come from other German cities to celebrate the occasion.
“Today, Germany is Malaysia’s largest investor in the European Union (EU) and this can be seen from the meaningful and beneficial impact on the Malaysian economy,” she added.
To strengthen ties between the two countries, MIDA Germany, with Malaysian Students’ Affairs in Frankfurt, have been working with German companies to provide internships for Malaysian students, especially in engineering.
There are 1,100 students who have graduated in engineering fields from German universities, since the arrival of the first batch in 1994.
Adina said bilateral trade between Germany and Malaysia had been on the uptick; trade with Germany accounted for 3.1 per cent of Malaysia’s global trade. Germany is Malaysia’s largest trading partner in the EU and 11th largest trading partner in the world.
Working with Adina to promote cooperation and better understanding of Malaysia is Rosita Heilek, president of MCD, who has been in Germany for the past 30 years working in the airline industry.
“In the past 20 years, we have achieved a lot: increasing membership of Malaysians here from 40 in 1997 to 400, helping those who just arrived either to work or study and promoting Malaysia in terms of food, culture and tourism to the locals,” said Rosita.
Festivals, such as Hari Raya, Chinese New Year and Deepavali, are celebrated so that members who miss home can enjoy their festive seasons, which at the same time, served to introduce locals to Malaysian culture and heritage.
Malaysians, who had just arrived to study or work in Germany, will benefit from cultural briefings from MCD.
It also helps charities in Malaysia.
To give the activities of the Malaysian community in Frankfurt a boost is Tourism Culinary Ambassador, Datuk Chef Ismail Ahmad, who had been promoting Malaysian food in Germany for the past 10 years; changing the palates of Germans to appreciate Malaysian food.
“From ‘it’s spicy, it’s spicy’, the Germans are now asking for recipes to cook, especially that of rendang,” said Ismail, who with the help of Malaysian and German volunteers, cooked 17 delicious Malaysian dishes for the gala dinner.
“We must continue to promote Malaysian food and it is not enough to talk about it because we must continue to demonstrate, get them involved and feed them.”
One German volunteer in the kitchen was engineer Bernd Werner, who came all the way from Berlin, hooked on Malaysian food he had tasted last year.
“We have 1,500 satay to grill for tonight,” Werner said.
The Sarawak Cultural troupe entertained the guests with traditional performances, while songs and music were provided by Johor Tourism, which launched its German website during the evening.