Germany and Laos: Bilateral relations
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. With its membership of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), Laos’ political importance has increased in the region. President Thongloun Sisoulith visited Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel in his capacity as Prime Minister of Laos in March 2019. German development cooperation enjoys a long tradition in Laos. Key areas include the protection of our natural resources, sustainable economic development, training and employment, life without hunger – transforming the food system, as well as peace and social cohesion. Since bilateral cooperation began in 1964, Germany has provided Laos with a total of more than 570 million euro in development cooperation. At the regional level, the Federal Government supports the Mekong River Commission with its headquarters in Vientiane.
While Germany’s economic relations with Laos have not yet developed to any great degree, they are on the rise. Bilateral trade amounted to 158.6 million euro in 2021, making Germany Laos’ principal European trading partner alongside France. An investment protection agreement has been in force since 1999.
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 3000 Lao studied or trained in the GDR, many of whom continue to cultivate the German language and culture within the framework of the German-Lao Friendship Society, thus intensifying bilateral relations. German was introduced as a major course of study in the Bachelor’s programme at the National University of Laos in 2003. There are currently six cooperation arrangements between German universities and statutory bodies and Lao partners.
Between 2011 and 2017, a project to restore the murals at the Wat Sisaket Temple in Vientiane received funding from the Federal Foreign Office’s budget for cultural preservation. The restoration of Buddhist temples, the documentation and digitisation of collections of Buddhist photographs and the recording of traditional Lao music were also supported. Between 2015 and 2018, a palace and its external buildings in the heart of the northern town of Luang Prabang, a UNESCO World Heritage site, were restored with funding from the Federal Foreign Office and other sources.