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. As a member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), Laos’ political importance is increasing in the region. Prime Minister Sisoulith visited Federal Chancellor Merkel in March 2019. German development cooperation enjoys a long tradition in Laos and is geared primarily to sustainable economic development and rural development. Since bilateral cooperation began in 1963, Germany has provided Laos with a total of more than 500 million euros in development cooperation. Moreover, the Federal Government supports the Mekong River Commission with its headquarters in Vientiane.
Germany’s economic relations with Laos have not yet developed to any great degree. Bilateral trade amounted to 121.8 million euros in 2018, 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. 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 seven cooperation arrangements between German universities and statutory bodies and Lao partners.
Between 2011 and 2017, the Cultural Preservation Programme of the Federal Foreign Office funded a project to restore the murals at the Wat Sisaket Temple in Vientiane. 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.