Last updated in March 2019
Costa Rica and Germany enjoy a cordial relationship founded on mutual trust. Germany’s set of priorities for its term on the Security Council coincides closely with Costa Rica’s international priorities. Bilateral relations are extensive in all fields of cooperation and are largely untroubled. They are informed by trade and economic exchange, which is healthy but could still be further expanded; by long‑standing development cooperation, which sometimes take the form of trilateral cooperation with other Latin American countries; and by cooperation on environmental issues and climate protection, which has been close and comprehensive for many years. Cultural, scientific and academic relations also have a significant place in our relationship.
Germany is held in high regard by the general public in Costa Rica. Its image also benefits from the country’s well-integrated German community.
Germany is one of Costa Rica’s principal trading partners in the European Union. In 2017, Germany imported goods worth about 522 million euros from Costa Rica and exported goods worth about 234 million euros to the country. Germany’s main exports to Costa Rica are chemical products, machinery, cars and car parts. Its main imports from Costa Rica are foodstuffs, measurement and control technology, optics, as well as electronics and electrical goods.
Costa Rica is a popular holiday destination. More than 74,000 German tourists visited the country in 2018.
A bilateral investment protection and promotion agreement has been in place since 1998. A bilateral double taxation agreement has been applicable since 1 January 2017.
Negotiations between the EU and six Central American countries – including Costa Rica – on a bi‑regional Association Agreement providing for gradual customs facilitation were concluded in May 2010. Costa Rica ratified the agreement in July 2013. The Association Agreement’s trade‑related articles have been provisionally applied vis‑à‑vis Costa Rica since 1 October 2013. Eight EU member states have not yet ratified the Agreement, in particular its political and social parts.
With an estimated GDP per capita of USD 12,095 in 2018 (USD 11,857 in 2017), Costa Rica now ranks among the world’s upper middle‑income countries. The country’s liberal economic policy and the population’s generally high level of education have led to continuing stable economic growth (3.2% in 2017). According to official figures for 2017, the poverty rate stood over 20 percent, including 5.7 percent living in extreme poverty. The country’s Gini coefficient, which measures income inequality, was 0.49 in 2015.
In November 2006, the last new commitments were made in San José under the “traditional” technical and financial cooperation schemes, which were in the process of being phased out. Since then, climate protection has become a new priority area of cooperation thanks to Costa Rica’s inclusion in the German Government’s International Climate Initiative (IKI). This lessens the impact of the end of bilateral development cooperation, which is only being continued in the context of regional and trilateral projects. As a pioneer of climate‑neutral growth – continuing to pursue the goal of achieving carbon neutrality by 2050 – Costa Rica is an attractive partner for Germany in testing new forms and methods of international climate cooperation.
In addition, Costa Rica is increasingly becoming a key partner and location for regional development cooperation projects. Cooperation with Costa Rica as part of the Central American Integration System (SICA) focuses on supporting the competitiveness of small and medium‑sized companies, promoting employment and business start‑ups among young people, improving energy efficiency and energy conservation, protecting biodiversity and reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation (REDD). In addition, the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) is conducting a project with the Inter American Court of Human Rights aimed at strengthening access to justice. Three projects are currently in preparation under the auspices of the International Climate Initiative (IKI), which aim, for example, to establish biocorridors and promote sustainable agriculture.
Culture and education
Although Costa Rica’s political and economic as well as cultural affinities have so far been largely with the United States, and traditionally with France, the cultural sector is an important component of German‑Costa Rican relations. Partly as a reaction to the United States’ growing influence, particularly in the mass media, Costa Ricans’ interest in European culture remains firm. To tap into this interest, Germany has launched the “Plattform Kultur”, which is closely coordinated with the Goethe‑Institut in Mexico, the branch responsible for Costa Rica.
An important part of Germany’s cultural work is promoting the Colegio Humboldt, a German international school with a total of nearly 1000 students and kindergarten children, ten seconded teachers and three federal programme teachers. Three partner schools in Costa Rica are members of the Schools: Partners for the Future initiative (PASCH), which is also funded by the Federal Foreign Office.
The German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) runs an Information Centre in San José that conducts bilateral and regional programmes to promote the exchange of lecturers and students (particularly postgraduate students) as well as university cooperation throughout Central America and the Dominican Republic. There are special bilateral agreements on academic and student exchanges with various Costa Rican institutions, including the National Council of Rectors (CONARE) and the public Universidad de Costa Rica (UCR), as well as with the Confederation of Central American Universities (CSUCA). The DAAD has a network of contacts and supports alumni associations in the region. A large number of exchange measures with and within the region are funded every year. These include individual scholarships as well as funding for institutional cooperation projects in the field of research and teaching. The Humboldt Chair at UCR has helped to further intensify interdisciplinary academic exchange since 2005. The Wilhelm and Alexander von Humboldt Special Chair in Humanities and Social Sciences, which is co‑funded by UCR and the DAAD, was additionally set up at UCR in September 2012.
There is a Goethe‑Zentrum in Costa Rica with two locations in San José. It offers German courses at all levels leading to the relevant German certificates. A total of around 1800 learners sign up for these language courses each year.
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.