The basis of relations between Latvia and Germany is to jointly work for a common future aim of unified and free Europe and stable, economically developed Baltic Sea Region. Germany supports the Baltic States on their way to NATO and the European Union and in foreseeable future Germany and the Baltic States will be trustworthy partners in these organisations. The relations between Latvia and Germany are characterised by active exchange of bilateral visits, growing economic relations, dynamic parliamentary co-operation, direct co-operation with the federal states, as well as wide-ranging contacts between different institutions.
History of Diplomatic Relations
Diplomatic relations between Latvia and Germany were established in February 1921 when Germany recognised the existence of the State of Latvia de iure. In 1991 both countries renewed the relations that had been interrupted for half of the century. The current Ambassador of Germany to Latvia is H.E. Reinhart Kraus, the Ambassador of Latvia to Germany is H.E. Andris Teikmanis.
Co-operation in various fields
The success of the Baltic States as full-fledged NATO and EU candidate states has been largely determined by the clear and far-sighted German policy of support, expressed in slogan "Germany: an advocate of the Baltic States". Annual meetings of Foreign Ministers or the so-called "3+1 meetings" between Germany and the Baltic States have become traditional. In 1996 during such meeting "Leipzig agenda" was elaborated. It embraced 12 issues, inter alia, abolishment of visa regime, support for the Baltic States' EU accession negotiations, and other points. At the moment this agenda is practically implemented. The Foreign Ministers of Germany and the Baltic States will discuss further tasks during their annual meeting in Berlin on September 20, 2000.
Although the exchange of visits between Latvia and Germany is exceptionally active (see further), the visit of Federal Chancellor of Germany Mr. G. Schroeder to Latvia is the first bilateral visit of a German Chancellor. Mr. H. Kohl visited Latvia in 1998 during the meeting of leaders of the Baltic Sea States (CBSS).
Germany takes over the chairmanship of the Council of the Baltic Sea States in July 2000.
Important part of bilateral co-operation is the Transform assistance programme that supports the process of strengthening of democracy and market economy in the Central and Eastern European countries. Since 1992 the German government in the framework of Transform has provided assistance to Latvia in the amount of DEM 56 million. In 1999 the priorities of the programme were: support to European integration process, privatisation and facilitation of entrepreneurship and economic co-operation. The programme is being continued in 2000. Germany has also provided considerable support in the framework of Phare programme.
According to the statistic data of May 2000 Germany is the third biggest investor in Latvia (total amount of investments - LVL 73.43 million or USD 121.2 million or 9.9% of the total accumulated investment amount). Biggest investors are Glasseiden Oschatz GmbH (USD 25 million in Valmiera Glass Fibre factory), Vereins- und Westbank (DEM 24 million in Vereinsbank Riga), Preussen Elektra & Ruhrgas (USD 19.3 million in Latvian Gas), Kittner Gruppe (USD 14 million in the Volkswagen Centre in Riga), Koelnische Rueckversicherungsgesellschaft (USD 6.3 million in Koelnische Rueck Riga), Readymix Zement GmbH (USD 9.5 million in the stock company Broceni). More than 700 Latvian-German joint ventures are currently working in Latvia.
Since 1998 Germany has become the most important foreign trade partner of Latvia. In the first nine months of 1999 the turnover of trade between Latvia and Germany reached USD 542 million (16% of Latvia's total turnover). Latvia's export to Germany makes up USD 215.8 million (16.8% of the total export amount), but import USD 362.2 million (15.4% of the total import). The most important Latvian export products are timber and wooden articles, textile and textile works, metal and metal articles. The most significant import commodities are technical equipment, mechanisms, electric appliances, vehicles, and chemical products. Latvia's trade constitutes approximately 0.1% in the total trade balance of Germany.
In August 1999 Agreement on the Abolition of Visa Regime entered into force although it has been functioning ad interim since March 1999. Successful co-operation with Germany in the field of home affairs concerning issues of Border Guard, immigration and other fields played an important role in the introduction of visa-free regime with Schengen countries.
The Ministries of the Interior of Latvia and Germany closely co-operate in 3 main directions: training, technical assistance, exchange of experience. In the end of 1996 the Agreement between the Ministries of the Interior of Latvia and Germany on Technical Assistance was concluded. As a result, Latvian Border Guard officers are trained and the communication network of the Ministry of the Interior developed in accordance with European standards. Latvia's eastern border is constructed with the participation of Siemens-Nixdorf.
Defence and Security
In 1994 the Defence Ministries of Latvia and Germany concluded the Agreement on Mutual Co-operation. Latvian-German military political consultations take place on annual basis, providing discussion framework for military co-operation and NATO integration. Germany has provided assistance in the following fields: personnel training, establishment and modernisation of the Latvian Naval Armed Forces, technical support, regional co-operation and implementation of multilateral projects. Germany participates in the international projects BALTRON, BALTDEFCOL, BALTSEA, BALTNET. 30 representatives of the Latvian Armed Forces are currently studying in the military schools and higher educational establishments of Germany.
Culture and Education
A significant co-operation partner is the Goethe Institute that has regularly organised a large number of exhibitions and seminars. Several Latvian and German universities have concluded co-operation agreement on the exchange of students and teachers. Active contacts have been established in the field of cinema. In 1998 the Days of Sachsen Films took place in Riga and Latvia's Days took place in Dresden. Currently, in co-operation between the Latvian TV and Berlin Television Studio a film serial Latvian Folk Ornament is being prepared. A broad cultural programme will be presented during Latvia's national day in the EXPO 2000 on June 30, 2000.
Co-operation with Federal States
The direct co-operation with federal states of Germany is one of characteristic features of the Latvian - German relations. Especially active collaboration takes place with the federal states of Northern Germany (Schleswig-Holstein, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Hamburg, Bremen). Since 1991 the federal state of Nordrhein-Westfalen is Latvia's partner state. In specific fields successful co-operation has been established with Brandenburg, Rheinland-Pfalz, Hessen, Niedersachsen, as well as the federal states of Southern Germany: Bavaria and Baden-Wuerttemberg.
February 1999 - Working visit of State Minister of the Foreign Ministry of Germany Mr. Guenter Verheugen to Latvia
March 1999 - Working visit of Foreign Minister of Latvia Dr. Valdis Birkavs to Federal Republic of Germany
May 1999 - State Visit of President of Germany Dr. Roman Herzog to Latvia
November 1999 - Visit of delegation of the European Affairs Committee of German Bundestag to Latvia
February 2000 - Visit of State President of Latvia Dr. Vaira Vike-Freiberga to the Federal State of Hamburg
March 2000 - Visit of Chairman of Parliament of Latvia Mr. Janis Straume to Bundestag, Sachsen and Bavaria
May 2000 - Visit of Vice President of Bundestag Mr. Rudolf Seiters to Latvia
May 2000 - Visit of State Secretary of the Foreign Ministry of Germany Mr. Wolfgang Ischinger to Latvia
June 2000 - Working visit of Federal Chancellor of Germany Mr. Gerhard Schroeder to Latvia
June 2000 - Working visit of State President of Latvia to Germany in the framework of Latvia's national day in EXPO; meeting with the Federal President of Germany Dr. Johannes Rau.
Most Important Agreements
Joint Declaration on Relations between the Republic of Latvia and the Federal Republic of Germany (in force since 1993)
Agreement on Promotion and Mutual Protection of Investments (1996)
Agreement on Co-operation in the Field of Culture (temporary application)
Agreement on Avoidance of Double Taxation with Respect to Taxes on Income and on Capital (1998)
Agreement on Mutual Protection of Classified Information (1998)
Agreement on Re-admission of Persons (1999)
Agreement on Abolition of Visa Regime (1999)
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