Historically, the close ties between Germany and Mongolia are rooted in the special relationship that existed between the German Democratic Republic (GDR) and the Mongolian People’s Republic.
Since its democratic rebirth in 1990, Mongolia has developed a close partnership with the reunified Germany, one that encompasses all areas of political, economic and social life.
Mongolia regards Germany as its leading partner in the European Union. The two countries jointly promote democracy and human rights in the international arena, particularly within the United Nations. Their close cooperation also includes a shared commitment to security engagement in Afghanistan.
The great importance attached to bilateral relations between Germany and Mongolia is reflected not least in the frequency of reciprocal high-level visits.
To mark the 40th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations, Germany’s then Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier visited Mongolia in 2014.
In 2015, Mongolia’s then President Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj and Chairman of the Mongolian Parliament Miyegombo Enkhbold travelled to Germany. In October of that year, Germany’s then Federal President Joachim Gauck paid a state visit to Mongolia.
Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel attended the ASEM Summit in the Mongolian capital Ulan Bator in 2016 and held talks with then President Elbegdorj. This was her second trip to the country as Federal Chancellor.
Germany is, along with the United Kingdom, Mongolia’s largest trading partner in the European Union. Though the volume of bilateral trade is modest, Germany records a significant structural export surplus. In 2017, Germany imported goods worth approx. 10.0 million euros from Mongolia and exported goods worth around 130 million euros to the country. Mongolia’s foreign trade balance with the EU countries in 2017 was -309.2 million euros, with EU imports from Mongolia amounting to 71.5 million euros and EU exports to Mongolia 380.7 million euros.
German exports to Mongolia can be broken down as follows: machinery (13.6%), foodstuffs (19.4%), chemical products (12.4%), motor vehicles and vehicle parts (12.3%), textiles and clothing (5.3%), measurement and control technology (4.2%) and other goods (37.0%). German imports from Mongolia in 2017 consisted of raw materials (56.3%), textiles and clothing (33.1%), machinery and metal goods (1.7%), electronics (1.2%), measurement and control technology (0.8%) and other goods (6.9%).
Mongolia ranks 150th among suppliers of German imports and 124th among buyers of German exports. (All figures in this section are from Germany Trade & Invest, GTAI.)
The raw materials agreement between Germany and Mongolia, signed in 2011, establishes a partnership in the raw materials, industrial and technology sectors aimed at securing raw materials supply and processing capacity in both countries. The creation of a value-added chain in Mongolia is designed to increased revenue and productivity, thus helping to ensure sustainable economic and social development in the country.
German development cooperation has been supporting Mongolia for over 25 years. An agreement on technical cooperation was concluded with the country as early as 1992, shortly after the beginning of its political and economic transition. Germany is one of Mongolia’s biggest bilateral donors, alongside Japan, the United States, the Republic of Korea and above all China, and is by far the largest donor in the European Union. From 1992 to 2016, Germany pledged a total of just under 400 million euros for financial and technical cooperation. This is not only a reflection of the good and friendly relations between the two countries, but also an acknowledgement of Mongolia’s achievements in terms of democratisation and economic transformation.
With its capacity-building measures, German development cooperation is making an important contribution to stabilising Mongolia’s economic situation, promoting environmentally compatible growth and reducing poverty. Germany and Mongolia work together in the following three priority areas:
Promoting sustainable economic development: Germany helps Mongolia to shape various value-added chains, taking account of environmental and social standards. Cooperation on vocational training is intended to give young Mongolians better prospects on the job market. The German-Mongolian Institute for Resources and Technology (GMIT), which trains top engineers in line with international standards, is a visible advert for cooperation. Germany has also provided support for Mongolia’s judicial system for over twenty years.
Biodiversity: German development cooperation provides technical advisory services on the preservation of biological diversity and thus makes an important contribution to the fight against climate change. In addition, conservation areas are being supported under financial cooperation. This helps in a significant way to preserve Mongolia’s unique ecosystems and to improve the living conditions of people who live from and with nature.
Energy efficiency: Rehabilitation measures for existing grids and power plants are being implemented to reduce energy losses and environmentally harmful emissions. At the same time, policymakers are being advised on energy efficiency and renewables. Cooperation is increasingly focusing on energy-efficient renovation, particularly of schools and kindergartens.
The Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung, the Hanns Seidel Foundation and the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung have offices in Ulan Bator and are making important contributions to consolidating Mongolia’s democratic structures.
Culture and education
As a result of the close ties with the GDR, some 30,000 Mongolians still have a good command of the German language and are familiar with Germany. Given the size of Mongolia’s population, German therefore enjoys a status in the country unique in East Asia.
Cooperation on cultural relations and education policy is intense and diverse. The cultural and language work done by the Goethe-Institut, which has been a fully-fledged institute since 2017, is highly appreciated. A total of 3000 pupils at twelve Mongolian schools are learning German as part of the German Government’s Schools: Partners for the Future initiative. The German-Mongolian Institute for Resources and Technology, established in 2014, is at the centre of scientific cooperation.
With support from the DW Akademie (DWA), the Press Institute of Mongolia (PIM) set up in early January 2015 runs regular training courses and exchanges in the field of investigative journalism.
Over the past twenty years, archaeology has become a pillar of bilateral cooperation on research, with numerous national and international exhibitions, conferences and publications bearing witness to the success of this cooperation.
Since 1998, the German Archaeological Institute (DAI), the University of Bonn and the Mongolian Academy of Sciences (MAS) have been conducting joint excavations in the ancient capital Karakorum (Mongolian-German Karakorum Expedition). The German and Mongolian Heads of State have served as patrons since 2000.
The second cooperation project launched between the DAI and the MAS in 2007 aims to explore important sites in the Orkhon Valley, one of the major centres of the Mongol Empire and a UNESCO World Heritage site since 2004. Current research is focusing on the ancient Uyghur capital Karabalghasun. The University of Bonn’s research is at present concentrating on the upper Orkhon Valley.
A ceremony was held in May 2016 to inaugurate the “Great Hall of Karakorum”, the DAI’s cultural preservation project at the site of the ancient capital of the Mongols, Genghis Khan’s descendants from the 13th century. The excavation and conservation of this large temple complex, which formed part of the ancient capital Karakorum, marks the first time that major results of joint Mongolian-German archaeological research have been permanently exhibited to an interested public at the historical site.