Last updated in January 2019
Germany is very keen to see a stable, democratic and economically flourishing Ukraine. The German Government is assisting Ukraine’s transition to a market economy and its efforts to move closer to European structures. In the wake of Russia’s annexation of the Crimean Peninsula in contravention of international law and in light of the military conflict in eastern Ukraine that has claimed large numbers of victims, Germany is seeking to reach a peaceful settlement of the crisis in close cooperation with its European and international partners, especially within the framework of what is known as the Normandy format (Germany, France, Ukraine and Russia). Germany supports Ukraine’s territorial integrity and does not recognise Russia’s annexation of Crimea.
Germany and Ukraine maintain close political dialogue. Federal President Steinmeier visited Kyiv and Lviv on 30 May 2018 and had talks with Ukrainian Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman in November 2018. Federal Chancellor Merkel met President Poroshenko on 10 April 2018 in Berlin and her last visit to Kyiv was on 1 November 2018. Foreign Minister Maas last visited Ukraine in January 2019.
Germany’s federal states, cities and municipalities, as well as universities and schools, private associations and individuals also feature prominently in the good bilateral relations. Under the German Bundestag’s International Parliamentary Scholarship (IPS) programme and the High Level Experts Programme of the Federal Foreign Office and the German Embassy in Kyiv, young Ukrainian professionals visit Berlin each year to complete an internship at the German Bundestag, Federal Foreign Office or other institutions.
The economy and trade
Following dramatic economic downturns in 2014 and 2015 – caused in large part by the continued fighting in the east of the country – Ukraine’s economy stabilised in 2016 and has grown modestly since then.
Germany is one of Ukraine’s most important trading and investment partners. It is not only the second largest supplier of Ukrainian imports and a key market for Ukrainian exports, but also one of the biggest sources of foreign investment in Ukraine.
Ukraine still runs a significant deficit in its trade with Germany, though this has been trending downwards since 2014.
The principal German exports to Ukraine are machinery, motor vehicles, chemical and pharmaceutical products, electrical goods, foodstuffs and animal feed. Ukraine’s main exports to Germany are textiles and garments, metals, chemical products, motor vehicles and agricultural produce.
It is estimated that more than 1000 German companies are currently doing business in Ukraine. In addition to the services provided by the German Embassy, their interests are looked after by the German Chamber of Commerce Abroad (AHK) established in Kyiv in October 2016, the official representative of the Association of German Chambers of Commerce and Industry.
Since 2005, questions relating to bilateral economic relations have been discussed by the German-Ukrainian High-Level Working Group on Economic Issues.
Acting on behalf of the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy, a German Advisory Group advises the Ukrainian Government on questions of economic and social policy.
The German Government has continued to significantly extend its intensive cooperation with Ukraine since the Revolution of Dignity on the Kyiv Maidan in the winter of 2013-2014.
Since 2014, around 377 million euros have been newly pledged within the framework of bilateral development cooperation (mainly implemented by GIZ and KfW). Staff numbers at GIZ and KfW have risen to 350 since then, and have thus increased sevenfold. The cooperation is focused on sustainable economic development, democracy, civil society, public administration, decentralisation and energy efficiency. What is more, projects totalling 113.3 million euros from other funding sources (e.g. transitional aid, the special initiative Tackling the Root Causes of Displacement, Reintegrating Refugees) and other institutions (e.g. political foundations, NGOs, social organisations, chambers, associations) have been approved. Many projects aimed at helping the internally displaced (essential supplies, housing, employment) and fostering reconstruction or the development of social infrastructure in eastern Ukraine are also being implemented.
Moreover, there are numerous other bilateral cooperation programmes being funded by other federal ministries. For example, the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety has significantly increased its bilateral engagement with new commitments totalling 61 million euros since 2014.
The humanitarian assistance provided by the German side (a total of 91.23 million euros since 2014), as well as a series of projects aimed at strengthening civil society, fostering dialogue/reconciliation/mediation as well as promoting the rule of law are administered by the Federal Foreign Office. Between 2014 and 2017, a total of 17.7 million euros was spent on these projects and 7 million euros were earmarked for 2018. What is more, the Federal Foreign Office oversees special funding programmes for the countries of the Eastern Partnership, with the total share allocated to Ukraine amounting to 23 million euros (2014-2017).
In addition to the bilateral assistance provided by the individual ministries, the German Government made available an untied loan amounting to 500 million euros in 2014.
All support measures funded by the German Government are pooled in a Ukraine Action Plan. Several federal ministries and implementing organisations such as KfW and GIZ, as well as business and civil society, are involved in its implementation. The Federal Foreign Office is in charge of coordinating the plan. The Action Plan contains both short‑term measures to alleviate acute hardship and medium and long‑term projects, as well as programmes designed to tackle further-reaching structural problems in Ukraine. A level of cooperation which is almost unparalleled in Germany’s relations with other countries has thus been established. This bilateral cooperation is constantly being further enhanced by direct communication between and frequent visits by those involved on both sides.
The priority areas of this German-Ukrainian cooperation centre on the key issues at the heart of the Ukrainian reform process. A focus has been placed on areas in which Germany has special expertise due to its own experience. The list includes
- energy and resource efficiency
- trade promotion and infrastructure
- decentralisation and municipal self-government
- rule of law and combating corruption
- civil society, education, research and media
Following special consultations among the G7 countries, it was decided that the former Saxon Minister-President Georg Milbradt would provide considerable support in the sphere of decentralisation. He was appointed by the Federal Chancellor to act as a reform envoy in this field.
For many years now, Germany has supported Ukraine’s efforts to build a sound and stable state based on the rule of law along European lines. An important player in this regard is the German Foundation for International Legal Cooperation (IRZ), which commenced work in the country back in 1991. Cooperation currently focuses on constitutional, administrative and criminal law reform, as well as judicial reform and fighting corruption. In addition, Germany is actively involved on a regular basis in multilateral projects such as those conducted by the OSCE. The support focuses on administrative and commercial law. Finally, the Federal Foreign Office directly supports human rights projects in Ukraine, which are implemented by Ukrainian NGOs.
Culture and education
A German-Ukrainian Agreement on Cultural Cooperation was concluded in 1993. In the same year, the Goethe-Institut opened a branch in Kyiv, whose network now includes German Reading Rooms, language-learning and teaching-material centres and libraries offering inter-library loan services in all regions of the country. The Goethe-Institut also oversees three German-Ukrainian cultural associations in Odessa, Kharkiv and Chernivtsi. As part of the Schools: Partners for the Future (PASCH) initiative, more than 40 Ukrainian schools (DSD and FIT schools) and the German school in Kyiv have received assistance in establishing and developing their German language teaching. The Central Agency for Schools Abroad (ZfA) and the Goethe-Institut cooperate closely to this end.
The German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) opened an office in Kyiv in 1998, and an agreement on academic cooperation was also concluded in the same year. A large number of German “programme teachers” (teachers working under special central government and federal state programmes), lectors and language assistants are working at schools and universities in Ukraine. Demand for German language teaching – both in and outside schools – remains strong, as does the interest in DAAD scholarships. The number of German learners is constant or on the increase and there are currently 42 schools in the Schools: Partners for the Future initiative. In 2018, a memorandum of understanding on the initiative was signed with the Education Ministry. More than 9000 Ukrainians are currently studying at German universities, and around 1500 Ukrainian students are awarded DAAD grants and scholarships each year. There are more than 160 university partnerships between the two countries. In addition, there are numerous school partnerships and town twinning arrangements. German-speaking Ukrainian and Ukrainian-born writers in particular are a prominent and integral part of the bilateral cultural landscape.
The most recent census (2001) put the number of people in Ukraine classifying themselves as belonging to the German minority at approximately 33,000. Most of them are the descendants of German emigrants who settled in what was then the Russian Empire from the end of the 18th century onwards. They have established various groups and associations, and many are active members of Evangelical Lutheran congregations, some of which are served by clergy seconded from Germany. Since December 2004, all the organisations and associations of the German minority have been united under the umbrella of the Rat der Deutschen der Ukraine (Council of Germans in Ukraine).
Regular meetings of the bilateral intergovernmental commission for the affairs of the German minority in Ukraine resumed in 2016.
This text is intended as a source of basic information. It is regularly updated. No liability can be accepted for the accuracy or completeness of its contents.