Last updated in October 2017
Germany occupies an important place among Sweden’s partners, particularly on account of its political and economic clout in Europe. German-Swedish relations look back on a long tradition. In the late 15th century, German Hanseatic merchants made up a third of Sweden’s taxable citizens and a majority of merchants residing in Stockholm.
Today, the quality of German-Swedish cooperation is reflected in the wealth of intensive contacts between the two countries. Bilateral relations are largely untroubled and characterised by agreement on many international issues.
There are frequent mutual visits at all levels. In September 2017, Queen Silvia of Sweden met Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel in Berlin at the Theodor Wanner Award ceremony. Foreign Minister Gabriel met Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallström on the sidelines of the Council of the Baltic Sea States (CBSS) in June 2017 in Reykjavík. Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel visited Sweden most recently in January 2017. The Swedish Royal Couple travelled to Germany in October 2016 on a state visit. Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven met with Federal Chancellor Merkel in Berlin in August 2016. Foreign Minister Wallström visited Berlin in October 2016 for talks with then Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier. In addition, there were a large number of visits at the level of the federal states and the parliaments.
Germany is by far the most important source of imports for Sweden. Swedish imports from Germany totalled 25 billion euros in 2016. Total bilateral trade between Germany and Sweden was valued at 39.4 billion euros in 2016, making Germany Sweden’s largest trading partner by a wide margin, ahead of Norway, Denmark and the Netherlands.
There are some 900 German businesses active in Sweden (subsidiaries, participations, branches and offices), with a total workforce of approximately 60,000 and an estimated annual turnover of around 37 billion euros. German companies tend to be concentrated in the Stockholm, Gothenburg and Malmö/Helsingburg regions. Sweden, for its part, has 1250 companies operating in Germany, with a total workforce of approximately 104,000 and an annual turnover of 71.4 billion euros. Swedish companies are mainly located in and around Berlin, Hamburg, Frankfurt am Main and Düsseldorf. Most of these companies operate in the retail sector (IKEA, H&M), but Swedish business is also engaged in the energy sector (Vattenfall). For many Swedish companies, the German market is more important than the domestic market.
Social and health policy
Generally speaking, Germany is keenly interested in the direction and achievements of Sweden’s social policy, with the main focus being on gender equality and family policy. Germany also has a strong interest in Sweden’s e-health activities and thus its digital health care solutions, since Sweden is a pioneer in this field. In January 2017, Germany and Sweden launched an Innovation Partnership aimed at promoting the exchange of experience and collaboration in the area of e-health. For a long time, Swedish interest in German social policy was fairly weak. In recent years, though, the positive trend on Germany’s labour market has led to a marked increase in bilateral contacts on issues like labour market reforms, vocational training and integration policy. On account of the two countries’ open-door refugee policy, an intensive exchange of ideas on migration and integration has developed.
Until the Second World War, Sweden oriented itself culturally and linguistically towards the German-speaking world, but after 1945 it quickly shifted its focus to the Anglo-Saxon world, with English replacing German as the first foreign language. German has since had to compete with other languages for the position of second foreign language. Besides the Goethe-Institut and the Deutsche Schule Stockholm, the 15 other partner schools recruited under the Schools: Partners for the Future initiative (PASCH) are of particular importance in promoting the German language in Sweden.
A positive contribution to promoting German culture in Sweden is also made by the German church communities in the country and a number of German-Swedish associations, especially in Stockholm, Gothenburg and Malmö.
German film productions, many of them dealing with historical subjects, are highly successful on Swedish television and in Swedish cinemas. Besides the German classics, Swedish theatres also stage more contemporary German plays. German ensembles and artists also give regular guest performances in Sweden, and there is a lively exchange of theatrical talent in both directions. In the realm of literature, there is particular demand for German classics but Sweden’s major daily newspapers now also increasingly feature reviews of contemporary German works.
Articles on life in Germany, in particular Berlin, are regularly published in the Swedish press. Particularly in the culture sections, there are frequent features dealing with Germany. The German capital is a powerful magnet for Swedes of all ages. Some 4000 Swedish nationals live in Berlin, including many who work in the arts sector.
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.