Germany has maintained 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. A delegation of the German Bundestag’s Parliamentary Friendship Group for Relations with the ASEAN States visited Laos in July 2015, and members of the Committee on Economic Cooperation and Development visited the country in January/February 2017. Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel met with Lao Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith at the ASEM summit in Ulan Bator on 14 July 2016. The two Heads of Government will meet again in Berlin on 13 March 2019. Lao Deputy Prime Minister Sonexay Siphandone visited Germany in March 2018 to mark the 60th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations, opening Lao Night at the ITB Berlin. Norbert Barthle, Parliamentary State Secretary in the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, and Members of the German Bundestag visited Laos at the end of February 2019.
The Lao People’s Democratic Republic is a priority country of German development cooperation. Our cooperation there focuses on two key areas: sustainable economic development (vocational training, microfinance, promotion of the private sector, integration in ASEAN) and rural development (land rights and land management, the protection and management of natural resources, climate protection and rural road construction). 2017 saw the start of a good governance programme, in cooperation with the European Union and other European partners, to promote parliament, the judicial sector and civil society in Laos. Since bilateral cooperation began in 1964, Germany has provided Laos with a total of more than 485 million euros in development cooperation.
At the intergovernmental negotiations on development cooperation held in Berlin on 3 and 4 September 2018, Germany pledged a total of 50 million euros for the next two-year programme up to 2019, including a special programme amounting to ten million euros for the reconstruction and rehabilitation of infrastructure destroyed as a result of the dam collapse in Attapeu province on 23 July 2018. In addition, the German Government supports the Mekong River Commission (MRC), a regional organisation comprising Laos, Thailand, Viet Nam and Cambodia, 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 (including the German Red Cross, DVV International, Sparkassenstiftung, the German Cooperative and Raiffeisen Confederation (DGRV), Bremen Overseas Research and Development Association (BORDA) and the German-Lao Association for Development), as well as through microprojects financed by the German Embassy.
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 2017, bilateral trade was worth 109 million euros. (German imports from Laos totalling 79 million euros and German exports to Laos 30 million euros), making Germany Laos’ principal European trading partner alongside France.
The Investment Protection and Promotion Agreement of 9 August 1996 (published in the Federal Law Gazette 1998 II, p. 1466) has been in force since 24 March 1999.
German and German-Lao companies are active in Laos in the renewable energy, service, textile-production and mining sectors. Mercedes Benz and BMW have local dealerships there. The growing tourism sector is important as the second-largest source of foreign currency (around 35,500 German tourists visited Laos in 2017).
Germany awards long- and short-term scholarships to Lao students studying at German universities. There are a total of some 600 German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) alumni in Laos. More than 2000 Laos 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 provides support in the form of further training for teachers, while the German Academic Exchange Service in Hanoi includes Lao students in its programmes. A German Academic Exchange Service lecturer will be based at NUOL once again from the autumn of 2019. Seven cooperation arrangements between German universities and statutory bodies and Lao partners also contribute to cultural exchange. There are long-standing relationships between the University of Siegen and the NUOL, with the aim of establishing courses in English in the fields of engineering and hydraulic engineering, such as the Master’s programme in Environmental Engineering and Management introduced at the NUOL in 2006.
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. The German partners are the University of Göttingen and the Technische Universität Dresden. Priority admission is given to students from Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar and Viet Nam.
For a number of years now, the Goethe-Institut in Bangkok has supported the Vientianale International Film Festival, as well as the Luang Prabang Film Festival with film workshops, masterclasses and films. The annual Fang Mae Khong International Dance Festival also received funding from the Goethe-Institut in Bangkok in 2017 and from the German Embassy Vientiane’s cultural budget in 2018.
Between 2011 and 2017, the Cultural Preservation Programme of the Federal Foreign Office funded a project to conserve and restore the extremely vulnerable murals at the Wat Sisaket Temple in Vientiane. The German Government has supported a variety of other cultural preservation projects, including the restoration of Buddhist temples and palm leaf manuscripts, the documentation and digitisation of bodies of Buddhist photographs and the recording of classical Lao music. Between 2015 and 2018, a residential palace of the country’s former royal family and its external buildings in the heart of the northern town of Luang Prabang, the ancient capital of the Kingdom of Laos and a UNESCO World Heritage site, were partially restored with funding from the Federal Foreign Office and other sources. A German-Lao cultural centre is to be established in the upper storey.
This text is intended as a source of basic information. It is updated regularly. No liability can be accepted for the accuracy or completeness of its contents.