Some 25,000 Eritreans found refuge in Germany during Eritrea’s war of independence from Ethiopia (1961–1991). These refugees, the majority of whom have since acquired German citizenship, still maintain close contacts with their home country even today. Around 70,000 Eritrean nationals now live in Germany.
Although there is fundamental potential for closer relations between Germany and Eritrea, it has not been fully realised since the end of the Ethiopian-Eritrean border war (1998–2000). There is little investment, a low level of bilateral trade and hardly any tourism. Cultural exchange is also very limited. Since the détente in Eritrea’s border conflict with Ethiopia, the German Government has been endeavouring to intensify relations with Eritrea once again. High‑level visits have taken place since the start of the peace process, including a visit by Federal Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development Gerd Müller in August 2018 and Minister of State for International Cultural Policy Michelle Müntefering in January 2019. The political situation in Eritrea continues to pose a challenge to bilateral relations.
Development cooperation was terminated in mid‑2008. However, the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development is supporting a fishing project worth ten million euros in cooperation with the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and a vocational education project for early school leavers in cooperation with the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH. It is also supporting German NGOs in the medical sector.
A number of German non-governmental organisations, such as ARCHEMED, Medcare for People in Eritrea, Pro Eritrea, Hammer Forum, Eritrea Hilfswerk, have been active in Eritrea for years, despite the difficult conditions under which they operate.