Last updated in April 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, Germany wants to stand by Cuba’s side as it embarks on its drive to modernise the state, economy and society despite differences of opinion on a number of issues.
Economic relations between Cuba and German are still not very intensive, with the focus being on the energy and health sectors. More than 250,000 German tourists visited Cuba in 2017, making Germany the third largest source market for tourism to the island nation. A German Trade Office has been opened in Havana to promote bilateral economic relations. Export credit guarantees, known as Hermes insurance, are available for supporting foreign trade and investment as a result of the German-Cuban debt restructuring agreement concluded in 2000.
In 2016, Germany exported goods worth 237 million euros to Cuba and imported goods worth 45.7 million euros from the country. Germany’s main exports to Cuba were grain, machinery, chemical and pharmaceutical products, plastic goods, medical equipment, motor vehicles and spare 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 so far not been resumed.
A number of German non-governmental organisations are operating in Cuba, mainly in the energy and water supply sectors as well as in the adult education field. The office of Welthungerhilfe (formerly German Agro Action) was closed in 2016 at the request of Cuba. The German Embassy is working with local partners to support microprojects.
Culture and education
Despite the lack of a German-Cuban cultural agreement and a Goethe-Institut branch office in the country, cultural and academic exchange and cooperation in science and research are cornerstones 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 15th 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 2017.
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 International Book Fair of Havana, and in organising the German Theatre Week. It has also helped established a German section at the International Festival of New Latin American Cinema. Also important are the practical opportunities for exchange and networking between Cuban culture professionals and Germany’s cultural scene.
The Peter and Irene Ludwig Foundation has an office in Havana which focuses on artistic exchange. Of particular importance is the cooperation in science and research with the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation’s scholarship programme.
The approximately 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.