Last updated in May 2014
Relations between Costa Rica and Germany are cordial and founded on mutual trust. Bilateral relations are untroubled, a fact underscored by former Costa Rican Foreign Minister Castro’s meeting with former Federal Foreign Minister Westerwelle in Berlin in January 2011, the May 2011 visit to Costa Rica by former Federal President Wulff and Federal Economic Cooperation and Development Minister Niebel’s visit to Costa Rica in January 2012. The official visit to Germany by former Costa Rican President Chinchilla in May 2012 has also helped consolidate 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 enjoys a very positive image in Costa Rica, thanks in part to 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 2013, Costa Rica exported to Germany goods worth USD 117.2 million and imported from Germany goods worth USD 338.6 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. Around 55,000 German tourists visited the country in 2013.
A bilateral investment protection and promotion agreement has been in place since 1998. Negotiations on a double taxation agreement have been successfully completed. The agreement was signed in San José on 13 February 2014 but has yet to be ratified.
Negotiations between the EU and six Central American countries – including Costa Rica – on a bi-regional Association Agreement providing for gradual customs facilitation were concluded in May 2010. Costa Rica’s government ratified the agreement in July 2013. The Association Agreement’s trade-related articles have been provisionally applied vis-à-vis Costa Rica since 1 October 2013.
With per capita GDP of approximately USD 11,248, Costa Rica now ranks among the middle-income countries. The country’s liberal economic policy and the population’s generally high level of education have led to continuing stable economic growth over a period of several years, with the exception of 2009. According to official figures, the poverty rate has declined from 21.6 per cent in 2011 to 20.9 per cent in 2012, while income inequality (Gini-coefficient) has risen slightly, from 0.515 in 2011 to 0.518 in 2012.
At the last intergovernmental talks on development cooperation, which were held in San José in November 2006, the last new commitments were made as part of “traditional” Technical and Financial Cooperation, which was being phased out.
Since then, climate protection has evolved into a new priority area of cooperation through Costa Rica’s inclusion in the Federal Government’s International Climate Initiative. This relativises the ending of bilateral development cooperation and sets the well-established cooperation with Costa Rica on a new, promising course. As a pioneer of climate-neutral growth – the current government of President Solís is also continuing to pursue the goal of achieving carbon neutrality by 2021 – Costa Rica is an attractive partner for Germany in testing new forms and methods of international climate cooperation.
In addition, Costa Rica is increasingly becoming a key partner and location for regional development cooperation projects.
Current priority areas of cooperation with Costa Rica are:
Climate protection/biodiversity: under the Federal Environment Ministry’s International Climate Initiative, Costa Rica receives funding for the projects Marine and Coastal Biodiversity of Costa Rica: Capacity-building and Climate Change Adaptation; Know-how Transfer for Renewable Energy Use; and Supporting Costa Rica’s Climate Neutral Strategy as a Model for Low-carbon Development. In addition, the Federal Environment Ministry funds the transnational projects Ecosystem-based Adaptation for Smallholder Subsistence and Coffee Farming Communities in Central America and Building Ecosystem-based Adaptation in Mesoamerica.
The regional project Promoting Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency (4E) in Central America, which is funded by the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, is designed to improve the implementation of strategies to strengthen renewable energy and energy efficiency measures (4E) in three selected Central American countries. The project Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD) aims to help the member states of the Comisión Centroamericana de Ambiente y Desarrollo (CCAD) to implement sustainable compensation mechanisms to reduce carbon emissions from deforestation and degradation.
In addition, as part of Financial Cooperation Costa Rica receives support from the Sustainable Biodiversity Fund for the project Integrated Ecosystem Management in Indigenous Communities in Central America and for the Credit Line for Environmental Lending to SMEs.
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 around 950 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’s (DAAD) Regional Office in San José runs an Information Centre that 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 (UCR), 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 UCR, which is designed to help further intensify interdisciplinary academic exchange. In addition, in September 2012 the Wilhelm and Alexander von Humboldt Special Chair in Humanities and Social Sciences was set up at UCR, which is co-funded by 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, a total of around 1,400 people enrol in one of the Goethe Centre’s language courses.