Last updated in April 2018
Germany’s relations with Bhutan are very friendly. The two countries have not yet established diplomatic relations but have had consular relations since late 2000. Official bilateral contacts are maintained via the German Embassy in New Delhi, India.
The Kingdom of Bhutan first formally declared its interest in cooperation with the Federal Republic of Germany, in particular its desire for economic cooperation, in 1978. Following the first official visit to Bhutan by the German Ambassador in New Delhi in February 1979, a delegation of three Members of the German Bundestag visited the Himalayan kingdom in December 1983, the first such visit ever made by a parliamentary delegation. In 2015, Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel met Bhutanese Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly. Prime Minister Tobgay visited Germany in November 2016 to receive the German Sustainability Award. In April 2017, Germany’s then Environment Minister Barbara Hendricks and German Bundestag Vice-President Claudia Roth travelled to Bhutan for official talks.
There is room for improvement in bilateral economic relations. Germany’s main exports to Bhutan are machinery, electrical goods, production facilities and paper goods. Germany’s main imports from Bhutan are iron and steel. In 2017, trade between the two countries was worth a total of 7 million euros, putting Bhutan in 189th place among Germany’s trading partners. As there are currently no long-term trade or investment projects between the two countries, even minor business dealings can have a considerable impact on the bilateral trade balance from one year to the next.
Germany is supporting Bhutan multilaterally through its contributions to international organisations that are engaged in the country, such as the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank (ADB), the European Union (EU) and the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD).
At the bilateral level, Bhutan has for many years been taking advantage of training and further education courses held in Germany. Young leaders from Bhutan’s administrative sector and from local non-governmental organisations receive practical training in Germany as part of a German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) programme entitled “Postgraduate Courses for Professionals with Relevance to Developing Countries”. Several scholarships are awarded each year through this programme, enabling young Bhutanese professionals to complete a two-year master’s programme.
The Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) promotes in particular civil society engagement through projects implemented by non-governmental organisations and private intermediaries. The Senior Expert Service (SES), for example, is engaged in Bhutan in the training of experts for the healthcare and tourism sectors. In the area of economic cooperation, the BMZ is supporting a project by the Savings Banks Foundation for International Cooperation to build and strengthen the microfinance sector in Bhutan.
Germany’s political foundations include Bhutan in their regional projects. In addition, several German associations – such as Bhutan Hilfe, Pro Bhutan and the Bhutan-German Himalaya Society ‒ are engaged in Bhutan and maintain their own contacts to Bhutanese partner organisations.
As part of efforts to promote democracy and the rule of law, Germany is supporting further education measures for the country’s police force and judiciary. A nationwide disaster prevention project at Bhutan’s schools has also received support.
The German Embassy in New Delhi regularly supports microprojects in Bhutan to improve the country’s medical care and promote the interests of people with disabilities, frequently in cooperation with the German association Pro Bhutan.
Bhutan attaches great importance to environmental and climate protection as well as species protection. It is not only endowed with an enormous biodiversity, but is also an important transit and wintering station for migratory species such as the black-necked crane and the Royal Bengal tiger. The country is not just carbon neutral ‒ it is also carbon negative. Germany is assisting Bhutan in its forest conservation and restoration efforts. It also supported the mountain kingdom’s accession to the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (UNEP/CMS), also known as the Bonn Convention.
Culture and research
On the cultural front, Germany has in recent years supported cultural preservation projects in Bhutan. One such project was the reconstruction of the cantilever bridge at the historic Dzong (fortress monastery) in Punakha, which was officially inaugurated by the Bhutanese Prime Minister in May 2008. In addition, a permanent photography exhibition in the turrets of the cantilever bridge – also funded by the Federal Foreign Office through its Cultural Preservation Programme – was opened by Bhutan’s then Prime Minister Jigme Yozer Thinley in late October 2011.
There are some instances of German scientists cooperating with Bhutanese ministries and research institutions, such as in geology and climate research. The Max Planck Society is carrying out a joint ornithological research project with Bhutan. The DAAD supported a collaborative project between the Royal University of Bhutan and the University of Rostock in the field of hydropower.
This text is intended as a source of basic information. It is regularly updated. No liability can be accepted for the accuracy or completeness of its contents.