Last updated October 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. Then Foreign Minister da Costa visited Berlin in April 2012. In 2004, then President and later 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 2014, bilateral trade remained very modest at just EUR 10.7 million. Timorese exports to Germany (mainly coffee) were worth around EUR 10.6 million and Timorese imports from Germany stood at a mere EUR 112,000.
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, and in the medium term a deteriorating economic situation due to exhaustion of the country’s oil and gas reserves, hold potential for conflict.
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 is entitled Peace Development, Youth Promotion and Fight Against Corruption: Peace Fund in Timor-Leste. Through measures such as mediation, conflict transformation and democratic participation, it enables young people to deal with conflicts in a non-violent manner. 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, which was launched in 2012, is designed to promote the protection and sustainable use of Timor-Leste’s unique and rich agrobiodiversity. The European Union also supports this project.
The Rural Development Programme (RDP) is helping to improve food security for the rural population through a sustainable increase in agricultural production. This is to be achieved by improving the services of the National Directorate of Agriculture and Community Development. 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 Oecusse District, 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 principal and most affordable 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.
Twelve experts seconded by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) and a development worker are currently engaged in projects in the country. In addition, there are five Integrated Experts from Germany working directly for government ministries and other authorities in Timor-Leste as well as 63 local staff.
German government engagement in the country – in some cases supported by Federal Government funding – is complemented by the contributions of church-affiliated organisations, Germany’s political foundations and other non-governmental organisations to the priority area of cooperation.
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 2015, Germany provided help to UNESCO to preserve rock art in the Nino Konis Santana National Park.
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.