A friend in the South Pacific: 50 years of diplomatic relations with Samoa

City of Apia

Today, Germany and Samoa celebrate the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations., © picture alliance / dpa / Karl-Heinz Eiferle

17.05.2022 - Article

Over 19,000 km separate Germany and Samoa. Today the two countries celebrate the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations. Why the fight against climate change is so important for bilateral cooperation and what role the dark era of German colonialism plays in their relations.

19.921 kilometers from Samoa to Berlin
19.921 kilometers from Samoa to Berlin© picture alliance / dpa / Karl-Heinz Eiferle

Samoa declared independence from New Zealand in 1962, making it the first independent Pacific Island state. The Federal Republic of Germany and the Independent State of Samoa established diplomatic relations ten years later – and in 1988, shortly before the Berlin Wall came down, the German Democratic Republic even followed suit. But the countries’ historical ties go back to the mid-nineteenth century and the German colonial age. It was primarily Hanseatic trading companies that first forged relations with the archipelago. The German Reich and the kingdom of Samoa signed a trade and friendship agreement in 1879. Samoa soon became a pawn in the power struggle between Britain, the United States and the German Reich. The archipelago was divided between the US and the German Reich with the Tripartite Convention of 1899, and Western Samoa came under the control of the German Reich. The German colonisation of Samoa ended with the First World War.

Fighting the climate crisis – a key challenge

Today, the climate crisis represents Samoa’s greatest challenge. Global warming and rising sea levels are threatening the very existence of the Pacific Island states. The islands’ inhabitants are already suffering the effects of extreme weather events. The fight against climate change is therefore a key focus of German cooperation with Samoa, including within the United Nations. Samoa is a member of the UN Group of Friends on Climate and Security, founded by Germany. Germany also cooperates with the Pacific Island states on climate issues at a regional level, with consultation projects on adaptation to the effects of climate change or the transformation of the energy sector, for example. In addition, it supports municipal projects in the field of education and in the fight against the pandemic. And it enjoys thriving cultural ties with the archipelago, which is home to just under 200,000 people. German funding contributes to the preservation of Samoa’s cultural heritage and historical archives. Currently, Germany is supporting a virtual Oceania exhibition that is being developed by Bremen’s Übersee-Museum in cooperation with the National University of Samoa. Alongside the Oceanian perspective on ethnological collections and colonial history, it will also foreground modern-day Oceania and the challenges that it faces, such as migration driven by climate change.


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