Last updated in November 2018
Until German reunification, Cuba’s relations with Germany were shaped, on the one hand, by its close ties with the socialist German Democratic Republic (GDR) and, on the other, by its critical stance towards the Federal Republic of Germany.
Since the visit to Cuba by Germany’s then Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier in 2015, relations between the two countries have intensified significantly. Due to the long tradition of bilateral relations and despite differences of opinion on a number of issues, Germany is standing by Cuba side as it strives to modernise the state, economy and society.
Economic relations between Cuba and German are still not very intensive, with the focus being on the energy and health sectors. Around 250,000 German tourists visit Cuba each year, making them the third largest group of visitors. A German Office to Promote Trade and Investment in Cuba was officially opened in October 2018 to promote bilateral economic relations. Export credit guarantees are available for supporting foreign trade and investment as a result of the German-Cuban debt restructuring agreement concluded in 2000.
In 2017, trade between Germany and Cuba amounted to 322 million euros, of which 247 million were accounted for by exports (mainly sugar products, tobacco, dairy products) and 75 million by imports (mainly machinery, pharmaceuticals, grain). Germany’s principal exports to Cuba were grain, machinery, chemical and pharmaceutical products, plastic goods, medical equipment, motor vehicles and vehicle parts. Cuba exported alcoholic beverages, tobacco products and honey as well as fruit and vegetable juices to Germany.
At Cuba’s instigation, bilateral development cooperation was discontinued in 2003 and has not been resumed to date.
A number of German NGOs are operating in Cuba, mainly in the energy and water supply sectors as well as in the adult education field. The office of Welthungerhilfe was closed at the request of Cuba in 2016. The German Embassy is working with local partners to support micro-projects.
Culture and education
Despite the lack of a German-Cuban cultural agreement and an independent Goethe-Institut branch in the country, cultural and academic exchange and cooperation in science and research are cornerstones of bilateral relations. Cooperation between higher education institutions is one of the most dynamic spheres of bilateral relations. A representative of the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) oversees the cooperation between some 58 higher education institutions in the two countries and organises German classes at the foreign languages department of the Universidad de La Habana (UH). The 16th edition of the International Summer School in Economics and Management, an event organised by the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin and the UH, was held in autumn 2018.
There is a privately-run German language learning centre in Havana.
Germany is involved in supporting major international cultural events in Cuba, such as the Book Fair, the organisation of German Theatre Weeks, as well as the establishment of a German section at the International Festival of New Latin American Cinema. Also important are the exchange and practical networking between Cuban culture professionals and Germany’s cultural scene. German interest in a dialogue with Cuba is considerable. The same applies to guest appearances in the theatre, cinema and music spheres. A whole host of events are planned to mark the 250th anniversary of the birth of Alexander von Humboldt and the 500th anniversary of the founding of the capital Havana in 2019.
The Peter and Irene Ludwig Foundation has an office in Havana, which mainly focuses on artistic exchange. Of particular importance is the cooperation in science and research with the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation’s scholarship programme.
The estimated 30,000 Cubans who studied or worked in Germany, especially in the former GDR, make a key contribution to cultural exchange.
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.