The Republic of Bulgaria and the Federal Republic of Germany enjoy close ties through their membership of the European Union and NATO. Bulgaria sees Germany as its key strategic partner in the European Union. Conversely, Bulgaria is particularly important for Germany in the field of migration. Bilateral political relations are based on partnership and mutual trust, thanks in part to parliamentary friendship groups in the German Bundestag and the Bulgarian National Assembly. There are particularly intensive contacts between Bulgaria and Land Baden-Württemberg and the Free State of Bavaria. The Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung, the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom and the Hanns Seidel Foundation all have offices in Sofia. Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier visited Bulgaria on 4 and 5 April 2019.
Germany and Bulgaria enjoy close economic relations. Since 2014, Germany has established itself as Bulgaria’s most important trading partner ahead of Italy, Romania, Russia and Turkey, and is the country’s number‑one importer and exporter. Around 5000 German companies do business with Bulgaria, of which 1200 have a branch in the country, managed for the most part by Bulgarian staff. Bulgaria’s foreign trade totalled 56 billion euros in 2017, with bilateral trade between Germany and Bulgaria worth approximately 7.5 billion euros (German exports to Bulgaria amounted to 3.7 billion euros and German imports from Bulgaria 3.8 billion euros). The volume of bilateral trade is continuing to grow at a brisk pace. German imports from Bulgaria are, however, rising more than German exports to Bulgaria, pointing to a trade surplus in Bulgaria’s favour in 2018. The German-Bulgarian Chamber of Industry and Commerce (DBIHK) has more members (545) than any other bilateral chamber of commerce in the country. In the tourism sector, which makes up approximately 13 percent of GDP, Germans comprise the third-largest group of visitors. Recently numbering 800,000 in a year, German tourists mostly visit the Black Sea coast.
Cultural cooperation between Germany and Bulgaria has traditionally been good and close. Since German reunification, the cultural agreement of 19 March 1996, along with teacher secondment and school agreements, have laid the foundation for cultural relations.
German is popular as a foreign language, including among the younger generation. It ranks third overall behind English and Russian among foreign languages taught at Bulgarian schools, and second in the cities. German is also very widely taught as a foreign language at Bulgaria’s universities and in adult education. The German Academic Exchange Service is helping to establish German-language programmes and faculties. There are currently over 150 partnerships between German and Bulgarian universities and five degree programmes in German, with around 400 students. Germany provides staff and funding to these programmes. Academic exchange is mainly promoted through grants from the German Academic Exchange Service, the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (German Research Foundation) and the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation. Among young Bulgarians, Germany is one of the most popular foreign study destinations. Numbering approximately 7000, Bulgarians have traditionally been one of the largest groups of foreign students at German universities and other higher education institutions.