Germany and Sri Lanka have maintained diplomatic relations since 1953. These long-standing ties form a solid foundation for constructive cooperation.
Germany is engaged in Sri Lanka in a variety of ways – including through the Goethe-Institut, the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), the development cooperation organisation GIZ, the Association of German Chambers of Commerce and Industry, and political foundations – and is respected and valued as a reliable partner. Since the late 1950s, Germany has been one of Sri Lanka’s most important bilateral donors. Development cooperation with Sri Lanka concentrates today on reconciliation, social integration, bolstering the private sector, and vocational education and training, with a regional focus on the north and north-east of the country. Under the German Government policy guidelines on the Indo-Pacific region, Germany and Sri Lanka cooperate in particular on maritime security and the promotion of a rules-based maritime order in the Indian Ocean.
One core element of Germany’s cooperation with Sri Lanka is the issue of human rights and a candid reckoning with the past. In the wake of a civil war that lasted nearly 30 years, the focus is on achieving lasting reconciliation between the country’s various ethnic groups. Germany contributes to these efforts as a member of the Core Group on Sri Lanka within the United Nations Human Rights Council, as well as within the scope of development cooperation, and supports a large number of civil society projects. The German political foundations that had been active in the country terminated their local programme work in 2013. The Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom reopened an office in Colombo in early 2016; the other political foundations are also engaged in project work in the country.
Bilateral trade with Sri Lanka was worth 954 million euro in 2020, compared with 1.1 billion euro the previous year. Since 2017, the EU has once again granted Sri Lanka tariff preferences under the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP). Germany is Sri Lanka’s third-largest market and Germans make up a significant number of the country’s foreign tourists. In March 2018, the Association of German Chambers of Commerce and Industry established a Delegate Office of German Industry and Commerce in Colombo in order to foster and expand commercial ties with Sri Lanka. The Sri Lanka-Germany Business Council, founded in 1999, also works to bolster bilateral economic relations.