Last updated in March 2016
For over 60 years, diplomatic relations between Germany and Sri Lanka have provided a sound basis for cooperation. Political relations have gained momentum since early 2015. Sri Lanka’s Foreign Minister Samaraweera paid a visit to Germany lasting several days in May 2015, meeting with Federal Foreign Minister Steinmeier, among others. The latter paid a return visit to Sri Lanka on 22 September 2015. Sri Lanka’s President Sirisena paid an official visit to Berlin on 17 and 18 February 2016 at the invitation of Federal Chancellor Merkel.
Germany is engaged in a variety of ways in Sri Lanka (through the Goethe Institute, the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), the South Asia Institute and friendship societies) and is respected and valued as a reliable partner. The German political foundations that were active in the country terminated their local programme work in 2013. The Friedrich Naumann Foundation re-opened its office in Colombo in early 2016.
Together with its EU partners and other Western countries, Germany is closely monitoring respect for human rights and the development of the humanitarian situation in Sri Lanka. In the wake of a civil war that lasted nearly thirty years, the focus is on achieving a lasting reconciliation between the country’s different ethnic groups, especially between the majority Sinhalese and the Tamils.
In the war-ravaged north and east of the country, Germany is helping with reconstruction and the reconciliation process. Support is provided through international organisations, the implementing agencies of German development cooperation – the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) and the KfW Development Bank – as well as through German non-governmental organisations.
For years, Sri Lanka’s exports to Germany have been worth about twice as much as its imports from there. Germany is Sri Lanka’s third most important export market. For many years, Germans have also made up a large portion of the foreign tourists visiting Sri Lanka. They numbered nearly 116,000 in 2015.
Sri Lanka has concluded the following agreements with Germany:
- trade agreements (1950, 1955 and 1958)
- investment promotion and protection agreement (2000)
- framework agreement on Technical Cooperation (1973)
- air transport agreements (1973 and 1995)
- double taxation agreement (1979)
In 2014, bilateral trade with Sri Lanka was worth EUR 699.5 million, compared with EUR 704.3 million in 2013. German imports from Sri Lanka grew by 6.9 per cent, to EUR 481.7 million, while German exports to Sri Lanka fell by 14 per cent, to EUR 217.8 million. Germany’s main imports from Sri Lanka are textiles, rubber and tea, and its chief exports to there are machinery, electrical goods, chemical products and motor vehicles. For years, Germany has recorded a balance of trade deficit with Sri Lanka.
Germany has traditionally been one of Sri Lanka’s most important partners in terms of tourism. The slumps in the number of tourists in the wake of the 2004 tsunami and on account of the precarious security situation during the civil war that ended in 2009 are now over. Recent years have seen marked increases in the number of German visitors: 46,000 in 2010, 56,000 in 2011, 72,000 in 2012, 85,000 in 2013, 103,000 in 2014 and 116,000 in 2015.
The 51 German companies that have invested in Sri Lanka since 1978 have created some 11,700 jobs for the local population. German direct investment in Sri Lanka since 2005 totals approximately USD 80 million (USD 7.3 million in 2014). Founded in 1999, the Sri Lanka-Germany Business Council, in which businesspeople from both countries are seeking to promote bilateral economic relations, has more than 100 members.
Germany has been one of Sri Lanka’s principal bilateral donors since the late 1950s.
After the civil war flared up again in 2006, development cooperation was restructured to focus on conflict transformation and peacebuilding. German development cooperation with Sri Lanka currently follows the OECD principle of “staying engaged – but differently”, with a focus on social integration and conflict transformation.
Even after the end of the military conflict in May 2009, it remained the aim of bilateral development cooperation to help bring about a marked improvement in the situation of the Sri Lankan population. This includes in particular a more sustainable reconstruction of institutions and building trust between the people and the authorities. To this end, development cooperation with Sri Lanka concentrates on the following areas: social integration, education, promoting the private sector and vocational training, with a regional focus on the north and north-east of the country.
Technical Cooperation (TC) projects are currently being conducted in the following areas:
- promoting social integration and transformation initiatives
- vocational education and training in the north and east of the country
- peace education
- development of small and medium-sized businesses
- support for management of the Wilpattu National Park and border zones
Currently, the largest German Financial Cooperation (FC) project is the construction of a new maternity hospital in Galle. Germany has made available a low-interest loan of EUR 28 million for this purpose.