Last updated in October 2013
Relations between Costa Rica and the Federal Republic of Germany are cordial and founded on mutual trust. Bilateral relations are untroubled, a fact underlined by the meeting between the former Costa Rican Foreign Minister Castro and Federal Foreign Minister Westerwelle in Berlin in January 2011, the May 2011 visit to Costa Rica by then Federal President Wulff and the January 2012 visit to Costa Rica by Federal Economic Cooperation and Development Minister Niebel. The official visit to Germany by Costa Rican President Chinchilla in May 2012 has helped strengthen the friendly relationship between the two countries. Key elements of bilateral relations are trade and economic exchange, long-standing development cooperation and cooperation on environmental issues and climate protection as well as cultural, scientific and academic relations.
Germany is very popular among Costa Ricans, partly because of the country’s not very large but well-assimilated German community. Of Germany’s political foundations, the Friedrich Ebert Foundation and the Konrad Adenauer Foundation have their own offices in Costa Rica. The Friedrich Naumann Foundation and the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation are also active in Costa Rica as part of regional projects.
Germany is one of Costa Rica’s principal trading partners in the European Union. In 2012, Costa Rica exported to Germany goods worth USD 595 million and imported German goods worth USD 231 million. Germany’s principal imports from Costa Rica are bananas, pineapples, coffee and ornamental plants and its main exports to Costa Rica are machinery and chemical and pharmaceutical products.
Costa Rica is a popular holiday destination for Germans: in 2012 nearly 50,000 German tourists visited the country.
A bilateral investment protection and promotion agreement has been in place since 1998.
With a per capita GDP of approximately USD 9,657 in 2012, Costa Rica now ranks among the so-called middle-income countries. For this reason, traditional bilateral Technical and Financial Cooperation is being phased out (the last new commitment having been made in 2006) and increasingly replaced by Costa Rica’s integration in regional projects.
Aggregate German development cooperation with Costa Rica is worth some EUR 333 million.
Ongoing Financial Cooperation measures include projects to improve the drinking-water supply and sanitation in rural areas and the Trust for the Sustainable Biodiversity Fund.
Another Technical Cooperation instrument is the secondment of German experts who work for between two and six years on specific projects and areas of activity in Costa Rican institutions with the aim of transferring know-how. At present, German experts are engaged in Costa Rica in areas including resource management, environmental technologies, renewable energy and project evaluation.
The Church Development Service (EED) also seconds experts to Costa Rican non-governmental organisations and provides financial support for their activities.
In recent years, InWEnt – Capacity Building International, Germany – now amalgamated with the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Technische Zusammenarbeit (GTZ) and the German Development Service (DED) to form the GIZ – has increasingly used Costa Rica as a regional platform for further-education measures with participants from Central America and beyond. Since 2011, the GIZ has advised the Costa Rican Ministry of Public Works and Transport on how to improve and modernise infrastructure at national level. This project will run until 2016.
Costa Rica is an increasingly important partner of Germany in regional projects including Promoting Evaluation Capacities in Central America, Biodiversity Platform Mesoamerica, Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation and Renewable Energies and Energy Efficiency in Central America.
Germany is also the largest contributor to the European Development Fund, with a share of 20 per cent. For the period 2007-2013, an indicative allocation of EUR 34 was made for Costa Rica, in addition to the regional cooperation programmes. The focus here is on poverty reduction and regional integration. It is important to mention here the substantial contributions made by Costa Rican partner institutions.
Cooperation on environmental and climate protection
As a pioneer in climate-neutral growth, Costa Rica is an attractive partner in efforts to explore new avenues and forms of international climate cooperation. Cooperation is therefore being systematically expanded as part of the Federal Government’s International Climate Initiative. The projects funded here cover areas including: adapting to climate change in marine and coastal ecosystems, supporting Costa Rica’s strategy to achieve carbon neutrality by 2021 and ecosystem-based adaptation to climate change for smallholder subsistence and coffee farming communities.
Although Costa Rica’s political and economic as well as cultural affinities are largely with the United States, the cultural sector is an important component of German-Costa Rican relations. Partly in response to the growing U.S. influence, particularly in the mass media, Costa Ricans continue to be very interested in European culture. The German Embassy supports activities that foster intercultural exchange between Costa Rica and Germany from the so-called Small Culture Fund.
An important part of Germany’s cultural work is promoting the German Colegio Humboldt, an International School with a total of 913 students and kindergarten children, ten seconded teachers and five federal programme teachers. In October 2008, four partner schools were admitted to the Schools: Partners for the Future initiative, which is funded by the Federal Foreign Office and Germany’s cultural intermediaries.
The German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) runs an Information Centre in San José, which conducts bilateral and regional programmes to promote the exchange of lecturers and students (particularly postgraduate students), as well as university cooperation throughout Central America. There are special bilateral agreements on academic and student exchanges with various Costa Rican institutions (including the National Council of Rectors, CONARE, and the public Universidad de Costa Rica), as well as with the Confederation of Central American Universities (CSUCA). The DAAD has a network of contact persons and supports alumni associations in the region. A total of some 80 exchange measures are funded with and within the region every year. In March 2005, a Humboldt Chair was established at the public Universidad de Costa Rica (UCR), which is designed to help further intensify interdisciplinary academic exchange. Last September also saw the establishment of the Wilhelm and Alexander von Humboldt Special Chair in Humanities and Social Sciences at the UCR, which is co-funded by the UCR and the DAAD.
There is a Goethe Centre in Costa Rica, at two locations in San José, offering German courses at all levels and awarding German certificates. Every year, some 1,400 people enrol in its language courses.