Germany established diplomatic relations with Bosnia and Herzegovina in November 1992. Since then, bilateral relations have steadily developed in a positive manner. Germany was closely involved in peacebuilding and in efforts to bring about the Dayton Peace Agreement. Since the conclusion of this agreement, Germany has been engaged in Bosnia and Herzegovina in a variety of ways, for example in the Peace Implementation Council Steering Board (PIC SB), at donor conferences, in the framework of economic cooperation and, until 2012, by providing German contingents for the EU military operation EUFOR ALTHEA and the EU Police Mission (EUPM), which ended in 2012. Germany provided financial support and sent personnel to assist efforts to deal with the severe flood disaster that hit Bosnia and Herzegovina in May 2014. In addition, for many years Germany has funded conflict prevention projects through the Regional Cooperation Council (formerly the Stability Pact for South Eastern Europe).
In November 2014, Germany, together with the United Kingdom, launched an initiative to revive the long-stagnant reform process. In order to ensure that Bosnia and Herzegovina can implement its comprehensive 2015-2018 reform agenda even more effectively, Germany has since 2016 been supporting the country in its efforts to refocus the reform agenda on two core issues: rule of law and anti-corruption. These activities have helped to revive Bosnia and Herzegovina’s economic and social reform process and to move the country closer to the EU. The Stabilisation and Association Agreement with the EU entered into force on 1 June 2015. On 15 February 2016, Bosnia and Herzegovina submitted its EU accession application, which is currently being evaluated by the European Commission.
The Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung, the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung and the Heinrich Böll Foundation all have their own offices in Sarajevo, and the Friedrich Naumann Foundation has a presence in the country too. The Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung also has an office in Banja Luka.
Even back in the Yugoslav era, there were joint ventures and cooperation with German partners (car industry, metal processing, textile industry/contract processing work, steel and chemical industries). After the Dayton Peace Agreement, Germany was at the forefront of moves to invest in production in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Investment and trade are focused primarily on the following sectors: vehicle parts suppliers, the construction industry/cement, raw materials processing/aluminium and regional dairy farming.
Trade between Germany and Bosnia and Herzegovina has grown in recent years. Germany is the country’s most important trading partner. A bilateral investment promotion and protection agreement entered into force on 11 November 2007. The double taxation agreement dating from 1988 is still in force. There is a Delegate Office of German Industry and Commerce in Sarajevo. In addition, a bilateral business association was set up in summer 2007, and now has more than 130 member companies.
Germany is one of the country’s principal bilateral donors in the field of development cooperation. KfW Entwicklungsbank (KfW development bank) and Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) are promoting sustainable economic development, infrastructure measures, renewable energy and energy efficiency as well as supporting democracy and civil society.
Cultural relations between Germany and Bosnia and Herzegovina are close on account of the two countries’ geographical proximity and the intensive historical, cultural and personal ties existing between them. The experiences of guest workers from the former Yugoslavia and the approximately 300,000 civil war refugees who returned from Germany after the war have helped consolidate Germany’s positive image in the country. There is keen interest in the German language and German culture. To promote cooperation, a cultural agreement was signed; it entered into force on 4 January 2006.
There are two German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) lectors in the country: one at the University of Sarajevo and the other at the University of Banja Luka. At times there are also guest lecturers from Germany working in the country. The DAAD has had an Information Centre in Sarajevo since September 2013. There is still great interest in studying in Germany (and particularly in scholarships). In 2017, 54 scholarships were awarded to students and academics from Bosnia and Herzegovina.
According to the German Rectors’ Conference (HRK), there are currently 28 partnerships between German universities and academic institutions in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Under the teacher secondment programme, a German language adviser (Sarajevo) and a professional adviser (Banja Luka) are working on behalf of the Federal Office of Administration – Central Agency for Schools Abroad (ZfA).
In autumn 2008, seven FIT schools in Bosnia and Herzegovina were selected as Goethe-Institut partner schools under the Schools: Partners for the Future initiative (PASCH). In addition, as part of the PASCH initiative, the ZfA currently assists 15 schools that offer instruction leading to the German Language Certificate (DSD). Applications from other schools are currently under consideration. German is taught at many of the country’s schools as the second foreign language, after English, competing with Russian (in the Republika Srpska) and increasingly Turkish, which is being strongly promoted. At many schools, the second foreign language is only taught for two periods a week, making it difficult to obtain the DSD. At the beginning of the 2015-2016 school year, a German section was established at Obala Grammar School in Sarajevo, in which biology and maths are also taught in German.
The Goethe-Institut in Sarajevo is active nationwide with cultural programmes as well as in education and library cooperation projects. Its premises also house an information centre. The Goethe-Institut oversees German Reading Rooms in Sarajevo and Banja Luka and runs Teachers’ Resource Centres in Sarajevo, Banja Luka, Mostar, Bihać and Tuzla. In 2016, a total of 3598 course participants learned German at the Goethe-Institut in Sarajevo. This number remained relatively stable in 2017.
There is very keen interest in German-language media in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Several German-language TV channels can be received nationwide via the cable network. German print media are available in some of the major cities.
Deutsche Welle has concluded rebroadcasting agreements with local and supraregional radio stations and the country’s major cable network operators. In addition, a variety of online portals and some of the country’s daily newspapers publish Deutsche Welle news reports. Features – mostly of regional relevance – are regularly reprinted in the country’s print media.