Until German reunification, Cuba’s relations with Germany were shaped, on the one hand, by its close ties with the German Democratic Republic (GDR) and, on the other, by its critical stance towards the Federal Republic of Germany with its Western orientation.
Since the visit to Cuba by Germany’s then Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier in 2015, and as a result of the European Union’s policy of opening up towards Cuba, relations between the two sides have intensified. Despite substantial differences of opinion on many issues, including such important aspects as the rule of law and human rights, both sides have an interest in developing their cooperation further, particularly in the business sector.
Economic relations gained greater prominence with the official opening of the German Office to Promote Trade and Investment in Havana in October 2018. German companies are particularly active in the energy, health and tourism sectors. Export credit guarantees for supporting foreign trade and investment became possible after the German-Cuban debt restructuring agreement was concluded in 2000.
At Cuba’s instigation, official bilateral development cooperation was discontinued in 2003. However, the country is involved in some of Germany’s regional development projects in the fields of renewable energy, climate change mitigation and environmental protection. A number of German NGOs are operating in Cuba, mainly in the energy and water supply sectors, as well as in adult education.
Despite the absence as yet of a German-Cuban cultural agreement and an independent Goethe-Institut branch in the country, lively cultural cooperation, collaboration in science and research, as well as academic exchange funded by the German Academic Exchange Service, are key pillars of bilateral relations. A number of higher education cooperation agreements are in place, and there are many alumni whose potential contribution to relations has yet to be tapped.
Due to the tight limitations on travel due to COVID-19 and the restrictions in public life aimed at containing the spread of the virus on the island, many bilateral cooperation projects can only be implemented to a very limited extent.