Last updated in October 2017
Germany has had diplomatic relations with Laos since 1958. Following the founding of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic in 1975, both the Federal Republic of Germany and the German Democratic Republic opened embassies in Vientiane. In the years after the revolution, Laos was a priority country of the former GDR’s development cooperation, which the Federal Republic of Germany has successfully continued since 1990. Then Economic Cooperation and Development Minister Dirk Niebel and Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle paid official visits to Laos in 2012, the latter to attend the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) Summit. A delegation of the German Bundestag’s Parliamentary Friendship Group for Relations with the ASEAN States visited Laos in July 2015. Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel met with Lao Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith at the ASEM Summit in Ulan Bator on 14 July 2016.
Lao People’s Democratic Republic is a priority country of German development cooperation. German engagement there focuses on two areas:
- rural development in the country’s poor regions, with special attention being paid to forest preservation
- sustainable economic development, particularly by improving human resources (vocational training), creating a microfinance sector and supporting Laos’s integration into the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC)
Since 2017, Germany, together with the European Union and Switzerland, has been supporting efforts to promote good governance and civil society structures in the country.
At the intergovernmental negotiations on development cooperation held on 9 and 10 November 2016, Germany pledged 45.8 million euros under the two-year programme for 2016-2017 to support projects undertaken in the above priority areas. Besides bilateral development cooperation, the German Government is providing funding assistance for activities carried out by the European Union and various United Nations agencies, including the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the World Food Programme (WFP) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
In addition, the German Government is supporting the Mekong River Commission (MRC), a regional organisation of which Laos, Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia are members and whose headquarters is in Vientiane. Germany is also promoting the country’s development, and in particular poverty reduction, via German and international non-governmental organisations and through microprojects financed by the German Embassy.
Germany has spent a total of more than 7 million euros on the clearance of bombs, mines and other unexploded ordinance left over from the bombing during the Indochina wars.
Owing to the country’s small population and relatively low purchasing power, Germany’s economic relations with Laos have not yet developed to any great degree. In 2016, bilateral trade was worth 107 million euros, with German imports from Laos worth 75 million euros and German exports to Laos 32 million euros. This makes Germany, along with France, Laos’s most important European trading partner.
A bilateral investment protection and promotion agreement has been in place since 1996 (published in the Federal Law Gazette 1998 II, p. 1466).
German and German-Lao companies are active in Laos in the renewable energy, service, textile production, building and mining sectors. Mercedes Benz and BMW have local dealerships in the country. The growing tourism sector is another important source of foreign exchange, with 32,000 German tourists visiting Laos in 2015.
Germany awards long- and short-term scholarships to Lao students, enabling them to study at German universities. There are a total of some 600 German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) alumni in Laos. More than 2000 Lao nationals received their academic education or completed an apprenticeship in the German Democratic Republic. Many of them are continuing to practise and promote German language and culture in German-Lao societies.
In 2003, German was introduced as a major course of study at the National University of Laos (NUOL) in Vientiane (leading to a Bachelor’s degree with a specialisation in tourism). The Goethe-Institut in Bangkok is supporting further training for teachers, while the DAAD in Hanoi includes Lao students in its programmes. Seven cooperation arrangements between German universities and statutory bodies and Lao partners also contribute to cultural exchange. Long-standing cooperative relationships exist between the University of Siegen and the NUOL, with the aim of establishing courses in English in the fields of engineering and hydraulic engineering. Worthy of mention here is the highly successful Master’s programme in Environmental Engineering and Management introduced at the NUOL in 2006. In addition, the University of Siegen advises senior officials in the NUOL’s Faculty of Engineering.
The NUOL’s Faculty of Forestry is a partner in a multilateral university cooperation project aimed at developing an English-language Master’s programme in International Tropical Forestry at the Vietnam National University of Forestry in Xuan Mai. German partners include the University of Göttingen and the Technische Universität Dresden. Priority admission is given to students from Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar and Vietnam.
For a number of years now, the Goethe-Institut in Bangkok has supported the Vientianale International Film Festival, and in November 2015 it organised a dance workshop in Vientiane as part of its programme work. Further cooperation programmes are planned.
From 2011-2017, a project to conserve and restore the highly vulnerable murals at the Wat Si Saket temple in Vientiane was funded through the Cultural Preservation Programme of the Federal Foreign Office. Germany has also supported a variety of projects, including the restoration of Buddhist temples and palm leaf manuscripts, the documentation and digitisation of photographic collections and the recording of classical Lao music. A residential palace of the country’s former royal family in the northern town of Luang Prabang, the ancient capital of the kingdom of Laos, was partially restored in 2015 with funding from the Federal Foreign Office and other sources. This was the venue for an event held in December 2015 to mark the 20th anniversary of Luang Prabang’s inscription on the UNESCO World Heritage List. The event was co-organised by the Prussian Palaces and Gardens Foundation Berlin-Brandenburg and attended by its Director General, Hartmut Dorgerloh.