Column-vaulted corridors, palm trees in the magnificent courtyard, the Presidential Guard is on guard: on this day, Peter Tschentscher is a guest at the center of Argentine power. The decisions are made behind the gates of the pink-painted presidential palace in Buenos Aires. Since 2019, President Alberto Ángel Fernández, a politician from the Peronist Party, who likes to fly in by helicopter to work in the morning, has ruled over the heavy traffic of the metropolis.
History also occasionally happens on the balconies of the palace, which tower over the Plaza Mayor: Diego Maradona raised the world champion's trophy into the Argentinian-blue sky from here, Eva Peron spoke from the balcony to her thousands of supporters and became a Latin American legend.
Mayor Peter Tschentscher is not a legend or even a well-known politician in Argentina. The whole big greeting station is cancelled, nothing is known of cheering supporters in front of the balconies. And yet you can feel how interested the Argentine side is in the mayor and in German know-how. The promise of the Made in Germany brand continues to have great appeal in South America. Germany, and thus Hamburg, is considered high-tech and reliable, an attractive partner that the economically struggling country urgently needs to leverage its own hydrogen potential.
A focus of the week-long trip is cooperation in the hydrogen economy and the import of "green" hydrogen from Latin America. On that day, Tschentscher met Mercedes Marco del Pont, a top-class interlocutor in the palace, confidant of the President and responsible for strategy. Like former Finance Senator Tschentscher, she likes to work with numbers and statistics, and was head of Argentina's central bank for three years.
Now both want to advance the booming topic of green hydrogen. Hamburg needs the miracle substance of the future in order to meet its goal of becoming climate-neutral as quickly as possible - and Argentina is looking for technological partners and buyers. Fernando Brun, former Consul General of Hamburg and ambassador-designate of Argentina in Berlin, is also sitting at the table.
"Huge opportunities" exist for Hamburg in Argentina, the presidential adviser later said at a roundtable on the subject of hydrogen. Tschentscher also outlines the great possibilities, referring to his goal of becoming climate-neutral with Hamburg as soon as possible. There are also representatives of large municipal companies such as Hochbahn, but also other big players such as Aurubis and the Hamburg Port Authority (HPA) are in the entourage, as is the general manager of the Chamber of Commerce, Malte Heyne.
They meet possible Argentinian partners who emphasize the potential of the country. This exchange is not really concrete - it seems as if both cities and their representatives still have to assure each other of mutual trust. Investing in Argentina is also risky, political circumstances can change quickly, and the country is dependent on donors such as the IMF.
Then everything has to happen very quickly, the speeches about hydrogen dragged on. Now the mayor of Buenos Aires is already waiting, the column is rushing through the city. Horacio Rodríguez Larreta has governed Buenos Aires since 2015, and the economist is considered one of the most promising candidates of the conservative-liberal Propuesta Republicana (PRO) for the 2023 presidential election.
He receives in an unusual, transparent glass town hall that looks more like a library than an official residence. A sharp contrast to the magnificent Presidential Palace. The building is located in the heart of the city's tech district, a scene that symbolizes how Laretta envisions his country in the future – modern, transparent and dynamic. And then it became concrete that day, at least a little bit.
The two mayors sign an agreement to strengthen cooperation between their cities. The planned cooperation focuses on sustainable urban development, climate protection and digitization as well as the promotion of economic relations, especially in the areas of start-ups and innovation promotion. Hamburg and Buenos Aires agreed on a closer exchange for the first time in 2018, which is now to be deepened and expanded.
“Our cooperation agreement confirms that we want to work together in urban development, climate protection and digitization. At the same time, it is about expanding our good economic relations, which connect Hamburg with Buenos Aires and many other partners in Argentina,” said Peter Tschentscher. Laretta thinks it is essential to stimulate economic cooperation. Concrete projects, something tangible? The collaboration has not progressed that far.