Outgoing German ambassador optimistic Ireland will join global tax deal

Deike Potzel says Irish-German political and trade relations are at all-time high

Ms Deike Potzel pays a farewell courtesy call on President Michael D Higgins and Sabina Higgins.

Ms Deike Potzel pays a farewell courtesy call on President Michael D Higgins and Sabina Higgins.

 

Germany’s departing ambassador to Ireland is optimistic that the Irish Government will join up to a global deal with a 15 per cent floor on corporation tax.

In the post-Brexit era, ambassador Deike Potzel said that Irish-German political and trade relations are at an all-time high, building on Ireland’s consistently positive image in Germany. But ongoing debate in Germany over corporations paying their fair share of tax always throws an unflattering light on Ireland.

“This is definitely an issue, one people in Germany have in mind across the board, not just people engaged in international relations,” she said.

“There’s a very positive image of Ireland as the green island [in Germany], people want to come and enjoy the pubs, but you always have ‘yeah, but the tax issue’.”

Last week, German finance minister Olaf Scholz expressed optimism that Ireland would eventually back a new OECD minimum tax rate, along with 130 other countries.

“Of course this is a change for Ireland,” he told German national radio, adding that companies “will end up having to pay more taxes” but with the benefit of legal certainty they will not face demands from multiple jurisdictions.

Ms Potzel was the first woman and first former East German to serve as ambassador to Dublin, and she hopes bilateral relations will continue to grow through closer cultural and personal exchange, as well as a greater German language push in Ireland.

“We had the chancellor over, the foreign minister twice, President [Michael D] Higgins visited Germany in 2019, but we need to bring people into that conversation and build emotional bridges,” she said.

After the 2016 Brexit referendum, Berlin identified Dublin and Helsinki as partners for its pilot “like-minded initiative of more intense political and diplomatic attention”.

Simultaneously the Department of Foreign Affairs in Dublin devised a plan for a “wider, deeper” footprint in Germany, including plans, since realised, for an expanded embassy in Berlin and a new consulate in Frankfurt.

Bilateral meetings at ministerial and senior department levels are now established, while cultural ties are growing. Driving artistic co-operations are a full-time Irish cultural officer in Berlin and the Goethe Institute on Dublin’s Merrion Square, reopened after a multi-million renovation.

After the state visit of Mr Higgins to Germany in 2019, preliminary plans for a return visit by president Frank-Walter Steinmeier are under way for this autumn.

Tensions arose after Berlin’s effective travel ban hit Ireland in January, imposed with just hours’ notice for unprepared travellers. Ms Potzel insists “Ireland wasn’t singled out” but says the rapid response was “due to the fact that we felt we needed to react as fast as possible” to the spread of Covid-19.

In her term, she awarded Germany’s highest civilian honour to Berlin-born sculptor Imogen Stuart and Prof Gisela Holfter, joint director of the Centre for Irish German studies at the University of Limerick.

“I was very happy to give the order of merit to two women,” said Ms Potzel. “Imogen is a pillar of our relationship, she’s had a huge impact, while Gisela is so well-known that the embassy Facebook post about the award ceremony had the most clicks ever.”

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