A vast distance lies between Germany and Sri Lanka – but only in geographical terms. Political relations between the two countries are very close, as Foreign Minister Steinmeier underscored upon the visit by President Maithripala Sirisena and Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera to Berlin on 17 February.
Unusually frequent face‑to‑face meetings
Four meetings at foreign minister level within only eleven months – that is amazingly often in the world of diplomacy. By way of illustration, just consider that if Foreign Minister Steinmeier were to meet the foreign ministers of all 193 UN countries this often, he would have over 800 meetings in his diary each year. But relations between Germany and Sri Lanka are evolving so fast at the moment that new cooperation projects constantly need to be discussed.
Cooperation on education, health, tourism and culture
To mention just a few highlights, a German business delegation will travel to Sri Lanka in May 2016. In July, work on a vocational training centre financed by Germany in the predominantly Tamil north of the country will be completed. Foreign Minister Steinmeier visited the project in September 2015 when he was last in Sri Lanka. Work is continuing on other cooperation projects, for example in the fields of health care and tourism. The two foreign ministers have now in Berlin signed agreements on enhanced cooperation in culture and science.
Supporting the reconciliation process
Germany considers it a political priority to support the reconciliation process between Sinhalese and Tamils following the protracted civil war. Foreign Minister Steinmeier told his Sri Lankan counterpart that he was glad “that the entire Government in Colombo is working on the reconciliation process”. It is a good sign that this year the national anthem was sung in both Sinhalese and Tamil on Independence Day (4 February), a first in Sri Lankan history.