Relations between Germany and Bhutan are very friendly. The two countries have not yet established diplomatic relations, but have had consular relations since July 2000. Official bilateral contacts are maintained via the German Embassy in New Delhi.
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 any parliamentary delegation. In 2015, Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel met Bhutanese Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly. Bhutan’s Prime Minister travelled to 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 6.6 million euros, putting Bhutan in 190th 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.
Bhutan is not one of Germany’s partner countries for bilateral development cooperation. Through its contributions to international organisations engaged in Bhutan, Germany supports multilateral programmes run by, for example, the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank and the European Union.
The Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) supports individual projects implemented by non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and private organisations. In the area of economic cooperation, the BMZ supports a Sparkassenstiftung project to build up 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 partner organisations in the country.
The German Embassy in New Delhi regularly supports microprojects in Bhutan.
Bhutan attaches great importance to environmental and climate protection as well as species protection. Not only is it endowed with an enormous biodiversity, but it 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 climate neutral ‒ indeed it is carbon negative. Germany is assisting Bhutan in its forest conservation and restoration efforts. It also supported the country’s accession to the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (UNEP/CMS), also known as the Bonn Convention.
Culture and science
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 research institutions and ministries, for example in the fields of geology and climate research. The Max Planck Society is carrying out a joint ornithological research project with Bhutan. The German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) supported a collaborative project between the Royal University of Bhutan and the University of Rostock in the field of hydropower.
On a bilateral basis, Bhutan has for many years taken advantage of basic and further training courses in Germany. The DAAD’s programme of development-related postgraduate courses allows young professionals from the Bhutanese administration and NGOs to undertake practical studies in Germany. Several scholarships are awarded each year, enabling students to get a Master’s degree after two years.
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.