Last updated in March 2015
Relations between Timor-Leste and Germany are cordial and untroubled. Since the UN Transitional Administration of 1999, Timor-Leste has received extensive assistance from Germany for nation-building. After achieving national independence on 20 May 2002, Timor-Leste was recognised by Germany under international law.
Timor-Leste’s former President Ramos-Horta has been a regular guest in Germany since November 2002, his most recent visit being in September 2012. Then Foreign Minister da Costa visited Berlin in April 2012. In 2004, then President and subsequent Prime Minister Xanana Gusmão paid his first visit to Germany at the invitation of the Federal Government. Then Federal Foreign Minister Fischer visited Dili in 2005, the first foreign minister of an EU country to do so following independence.
Timor-Leste has traditionally supported German efforts to reform the United Nations and German UN candidatures, in some cases under reciprocal agreements. In February 2011, the appointment of Timor-Leste’s first Honorary Consul in Berlin was approved.
In 2013, bilateral trade remained very modest at just EUR 6.1 million. Timorese exports to Germany (mainly coffee) were worth nearly EUR 6 million and Timorese imports from Germany stood at a mere EUR 150,000.
The bilateral investment promotion and protection agreement (BIPA) with Timor-Leste, which was signed on 10 August 2005, must be ratified by both parties before it can enter into force.
The peaceful elections of 2012 and the stable security situation during the transfer of power from Prime Minister Xanana Gusmão to Rui Maria de Araújo in February 2015 show that the political situation in the country has stabilised in recent years. However, social grievances and poverty hold potential for conflict in the long term.
The principal areas of conflict in Timor-Leste are youth and gang violence, but also increasingly conflicts over land and the continuing high level of violence against women, children and people with disabilities. An important factor driving youth violence is the very high level of unemployment among young people.
For this reason, German development cooperation projects in Timor-Leste focus specifically on promoting peace and security, e.g. by helping to create economic prospects for young people (projects to support peaceful development through innovative employment promotion) and enabling young people to deal with conflicts in a non-violent manner by establishing well-equipped youth promotion institutions (projects for peaceful development, youth promotion and fighting corruption through the Peace Fund in Timor-Leste).
At the intergovernmental talks between Germany and Timor-Leste held in Dili in 2013, Germany pledged EUR 7 million in Technical Cooperation, i.e. for consulting services, and EUR 7.8 million in Financial Cooperation, bringing the total volume of German commitments so far to more than EUR 50 million. Bilateral government development cooperation is currently pursuing the above-mentioned goals by implementing various measures including those listed below.
At present, the biggest project here is the Peace Fund, which provides assistance in areas such as mediation, conflict transformation and democratic participation to help prevent violence and promote reconciliation. The Peace Fund is not only meant to serve as a funding instrument but also to help build sound national and local peacekeeping structures. This also includes providing advice on the setting up of a National Youth Fund by the end of the current legislative period in 2017.
The project Sustainable Use of Agricultural Biodiversity to Secure Livelihoods was launched in 2012 and is designed to counter the effects of widespread destructive overuse of agricultural land and soil degradation. The European Union also supports this project.
The Rural Development Programme (RDP) involves agricultural consulting, business development and training, the development of rural business initiatives and services as well as village community initiatives, water catchment area and forestry management and rural infrastructure. Phase IV of the RDP, which began in 2012, is being largely supported by the European Union and co-funded by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ). The Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) and a Portuguese institution have been tasked with its implementation.
Building transport infrastructure to connect rural regions with the country’s capital and coastal areas is one of the major challenges facing Timor-Leste and an essential prerequisite for its future development. Cooperation in the maritime transport sector began with the establishment of a ferry connection between the capital Dili, Atauro Island and the coast of Oecusse, a Timorese enclave of the western side of Timor Island surrounded by Indonesian territory. The German-funded passenger and freight ferry Berlin Nakroma is so far the country’s only domestic maritime connection. Cooperation in this area also covers training seaman and creating an institutional framework for maritime legislation and the observance of international maritime transport standards. Initial preparations have already been made to establish another ferry connection on the country’s north coast.
Ten experts seconded by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) and four development workers are currently engaged in projects in the country. In addition, there are six Integrated Experts from Germany working directly for government ministries and other authorities in Timor-Leste.
German government engagement in the country – in some cases supported by Federal Government funding – is complemented by the work of church-affiliated organisations, Germany’s political foundations and other non-governmental organisations.
In cooperation with the Timorese Ministry of Culture and UNESCO, Germany has helped to set up a film archive with funds from its Cultural Preservation Programme.
In view of the poor training conditions for many of Timor-Leste’s journalists, since 2007 Germany has invited several of them to attend further-education seminars in Germany and Indonesia conducted by the German broadcaster Deutsche Welle and the GIZ.
Since 2002, a large number of Timorese students (who were, however, studying in Indonesia) have been invited to study in Germany on German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) scholarships. Most recently, five Timorese students studying in the Philippines were awarded DAAD scholarships.
An EU film festival has been held in Dili every December since 2008. Besides Germany, many other EU member countries are regular participants.