Last updated in March 2018
Historically, the German minority in Kyrgyzstan figures prominently in bilateral relations. The first settlements of German Mennonites in the country date back to the 19th century. During the Second World War ethnic German citizens of the USSR, mostly from the Volga region, were also forcefully resettled in Kyrgyzstan. Another wave of immigration began in the 1950s, this time from Siberia when banishment ended. Of the roughly 100,000 ethnic Germans living in Kyrgyzstan in the early 1990s, an estimated 8000 have remained in the country. The German Government provides financial support to the members of the German minority, especially in the social, cultural and education sectors.
Giving Kyrgyz citizens of German extraction prospects for the future was a major objective of the declaration of principles adopted by the independent Kyrgyz Republic and the Federal Republic of Germany on 4 July 1992. In the same year, a German diplomatic mission was opened in Kyrgyzstan. As the first EU country with a fully-fledged embassy in Kyrgyzstan, Germany is the country’s most important partner in the European Union.
Kyrgyzstan’s then President Almazbek Atambayev visited Germany in April 2015 and February 2017. During the latter visit, he met Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference. Germany’s then Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier visited Bishkek from 31 March to 1 April 2016 and the Federal Chancellor visited there from 13 to 14 July 2016. In October of that year, Germany’s then Food and Agriculture Minister Christian Schmidt paid a visit to Bishkek, a trip that highlighted the two countries’ mutual interest in cooperation.
Overall, bilateral trade between the two countries is insignificant, with a large trade surplus in Germany’s favour. In 2017, Germany exported goods worth nearly 62.01 million euros to Kyrgyzstan and imported goods worth 13.93 million euros. Germany’s main exports to Kyrgyzstan are motor vehicles, machinery and chemical products (pharmaceuticals and cosmetics). Kyrgyzstan’s main exports to Germany are agricultural products.
There is little investment activity in Kyrgyzstan by German companies. Actors such as the Delegation of German Industry and Commerce in Central Asia (AHK) are promoting the development of economic relations. The German Business Day, which was mainly organised by the Almaty-based AHK, was held for the second time in Bishkek in March 2017 and received support and high-level attention from the German Government.
At the intergovernmental consultations between Germany and Kyrgyzstan in May 2012, sustainable economic development and health care reform were confirmed as the priority areas of bilateral development cooperation. The aim is to provide long-term support to promote the country’s stable and sustainable development. The principal points of reference here are the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and Kyrgyzstan’s national development strategy. Other major topics in the development portfolio are climate, good governance and gender justice. Kyrgyzstan’s National Strategy for Sustainable Development 2013-2017 is being followed up by a development strategy for the period 2018-2022. In this context, the Kyrgyz Government has just unveiled a programme entitled “40 Steps to a New Era.” Germany will provide, where requested and where possible, assistance in implementing the new strategy.
Financial cooperation focuses on two main areas: expanding the microfinance sector and local infrastructure, especially in rural areas, in order to increase local value-added and employment; and helping Kyrgyzstan implement its national health care reform programme in cooperation with several international donors. Financial cooperation also supports emergency medicine, HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis prevention as well as helping to improve the health of mothers and children. A programme to improve energy efficiency was successfully concluded in 2017.
In bilateral technical cooperation, the German Government is mainly engaged in a programme to promote sustainable economic development and vocational training. Projects are also being conducted in the areas of maternal and child health, climate and biodiversity and vocational training. The economic development programme is helping the Kyrgyz Government – in tandem with the private sector – to improve overall economic conditions and other factors affecting the country’s competitiveness with a view to effecting structural change that creates jobs and generates income.
In addition, Kyrgyzstan is receiving consulting services through regional projects, such as the project entitled “Support to Legal and Judicial Reforms in Central Asia” and a project to promote regional cooperation on trade, vocational training, sustainable resource use and mineral raw materials governance. The latter project is in the process of being phased out.
The aggregate amount of bilateral technical and financial cooperation provided since 1993 totals nearly 306 million euros, making Germany one of the country’s principal bilateral donors. Germany also contributes substantial funding to the programmes of multilateral institutions, such as the Asian Development Bank, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the European Commission and the World Bank.
At the intergovernmental negotiations on development cooperation held in July 2017 in Berlin, the course was set for cooperation over the next two years (2017/2018). Funding worth 40.1 million euros was made available for bilateral measures under financial and technical cooperation. In addition, the two countries agreed on a debt swap worth 14.9 million euros, which Kyrgyzstan is required to direct towards development efforts in the country instead of towards servicing debt.
Culture and education
To promote the German language, Germany’s Central Agency for Schools Abroad (ZfA) and the Goethe-Institut are providing special assistance to a total of ten schools in various Kyrgyz cities, including through teachers seconded from Germany, as part of the Schools: Partners for the Future initiative (PASCH).
At some of these schools, students can obtain the German Language Certificate II (DSD II). However, measures to promote German in Kyrgyzstan are meeting with growing difficulties. Due to the promotion and increasingly widespread use of the Kyrgyz language in teaching and the growing popularity of English at the country’s schools, the number of German learners is declining.
Since 1998, there has been a German Reading Room at the National Library in Bishkek, co-managed by the Goethe-Institut in Almaty, Kazakhstan. Since 2000, there has also been a language learning centre coordinated by the Goethe-Institut in Almaty offering professional German language courses and further training for teachers throughout the country. There are also German Information Centres in Osh and Jalalabad.
The German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) runs an Information Centre in Bishkek. The DAAD regularly awards research and study scholarships in Kyrgyzstan to Kyrgyz students, scientists and academics. The number of DAAD scholarship holders is constantly growing. In 2016, 99 people from Germany and 431 people from Kyrgyzstan received support for academic exchange.
The DAAD has lectors working at several universities in Bishkek. There are also numerous university partnerships between the two countries, which are likewise funded by the DAAD. Every year, a total of approximately one million euros is spent on scholarships for Kyrgyz students and academic support in Kyrgyzstan.
In April 1999, a DAAD alumni association was set up by former DAAD scholarship holders, and in early 2005 an alumni association was established by former Alexander von Humboldt Foundation fellows.
The German broadcaster Deutsche Welle (DW) has concluded rebroadcasting agreements with numerous radio and TV stations across the country to rebroadcast DW satellite radio and TV programmes. Other focuses of the DW Akademie’s work are expanding citizens’ radio in Kyrgyzstan as well as training young journalists in Central Asia, which has so far been conducted in Bishkek in cooperation with the OSCE Academy.
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.