Germany is seen as an important member of the European Union, as an economic powerhouse and as a close partner of Lithuania. The country has historical ties with Germany owing to the fact that the former Lithuania Minor, or Prussian Lithuania, which included the cities of Klaipėda (Memel) and Šilutė (Heydekrug), was part of the German Reich. Bilateral relations were resumed on 28 August 1991 and are based on solidarity and partnership in the EU and NATO as well as on a close-knit network of contacts in business, science and academia, culture and society.
In February 2017, as part of NATO’s enhanced Forward Presence and based on the decisions taken at the NATO Summit in Warsaw in 2016, Germany began deploying the German contingent that forms part of a NATO battalion in Lithuania. The battalion currently comprises around 1300 soldiers, about half of them from Germany.
Germany remains one of Lithuania’s principal trading partners and is a major investor in the Country.
Cultural relations between Germany and Lithuania are based on the cultural agreement signed in Bonn on 21 July 1993. There is a Goethe-Institut in Vilnius, which is engaged in language and cultural work. In addition, the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) and the Central Agency for Schools Abroad (ZfA) have two lectors, a specialist adviser and two programme teachers working at Lithuanian schools or universities.
Besides the 60 or so town twinning arrangements and regional partnerships, there are lively school, university and youth exchange programmes between the two countries. A German-Lithuanian war graves agreement was signed on 4 July 1996. Since then, several German military cemeteries have been inaugurated and restored.
The German Language Days initiated by all the German institutions active in Lithuania were held for the second time from 12 to 29 October 2017. A total of some 19,000 people from many different institutions were directly involved in around 250 events held throughout Lithuania to promote German language and culture. Interest in the German language in Lithuania has been growing again since 2016 in keeping with the positive development of the country’s relations with Germany.
Over the past three years, the Schools: Partners for the Future (PASCH) initiative has become the backbone of efforts to promote the German language in Lithuania. During the last few years, the number of partner schools in Lithuania has increased from 13 to 16, and the number of students obtaining the German language diploma DSD II has seen a dramatic rise of 50 percent.
The Republic of Lithuania does not have its own document recording its declaration of independence one hundred years ago (16 February 1918). With an eye to the centenary of its independence in 2018, at the start of 2017 Lithuania began to search for the vanished original documents. In early 2017, a Lithuanian professor researching in the Political Archive of the Federal Foreign Office found a document (bearing original signatures) from the Council of Lithuania to the German Reich announcing Lithuania’s independence and asking for it to be recognised. This letter, a state document, is a unique treasure of great historical and political value. Germany has loaned the document to Lithuania for the centennial celebrations. It will be on display in the House of Signatories, where it was originally drawn up, for up to five years. The document is one of the highlights of the celebrations.
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