Last updated in September 2018
Costa Rica and Germany enjoy a cordial relationship founded on mutual trust. Bilateral relations are untroubled and marked above all by numerous high-level political contacts (such as the recent trips by the then Federal Ministers Johanna Wanka and Barbara Hendricks), trade and economic exchange, long-standing development cooperation and cooperation on environmental issues and climate protection as well as cultural, scientific and academic relations.
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 most important 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, while 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. 71,000 German tourists visited the country in 2017.
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 European Union and six Central American countries – including Costa Rica – on a bi-regional association agreement providing for gradual customs facilitation were concluded in May 2010. The Costa Rican Government 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 GDP per capita of 11.857 USD (2016: 11,835 USD), 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 over a period of several years, with the exception of 2009. In 2017 growth equalled 3.2 percent. According to official figures for 2017, the poverty rate stood at 20 percent, with 5.7 percent living in extreme poverty. The country’s Gini coefficient, which measures income inequality, was 0.49 in 2015.
In San José in November 2006, the last new commitments were made 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 2030 – 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 as well as reducing emissions from deforestation and forest 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).
Culture and education
Although Costa Rica’s political and economic as well as cultural affinities are largely with the United States, 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.
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 exchanges are funded with and within the region every year. These include individual scholarships as well as funding for institutional cooperation projects in the field of research and teaching. In March 2005, a Humboldt Chair was established at UCR to help further intensify interdisciplinary academic exchange. In addition, in September 2012 the Wilhelm and Alexander von Humboldt Special Chair in Humanities and Social Sciences, which is co funded by UCR and the DAAD, was set up at UCR.
There is a Goethe-Zentrum in Costa Rica, at 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.