The Union of Myanmar and the Federal Republic of Germany announced the signing of a treaty enforcing cultural exchange recently in Yangon.
Claudia Pieper, Minister of State in Germany’s Foreign Affairs Ministry, and U Myint Kyu, Deputy Minister of the Cultural Affairs Ministry of Myanmar signed the treaty in Nay Pyi Taw.
Since the negotiations for the treaty only started in September 2012 Pieper said she was rather surprised that the bilateral contract could already be signed.
She continued pointing out that she was proud to announce that Germany is the first European country to seal a treaty of cultural cooperation with Myanmar.
It is regarded as another result of the transformation process Myanmar is undergoing at the time which is aimed at set an end to its status as a pariah state, ending its almost 50 years long military rule and establish democracy.
The treaty is designed to encourage various forms of cultural exchange between the two countries, reaching from cooperation between artists to the exchange of scientist and university cooperation. There are also plans for students exchange programmes, involving scholarships to be given to German and Myanmar students by Germany’s Foreign Affairs Ministry.
Even though the two countries are eager to work closer together in these issues, there are still some challenges to be faced, according to Pieper.
To be able to acknowledge each other’s university degree, there is still some adjusting work to be done.
One of the main purposes of the agreement is the reestablishment of a Goethe Institute in Yangon. The Institute, funded by the Government of Germany will be the central institution for cultural ties between Myanmar and the Federal Republic. It is planned to offer classes in German language, German culture and to be an organiser of cultural events such as art exhibitions or cooperation between Orchestras.
A Yangon Institute, doing the equivalent work in Germany, is planned to be established too.
The Yangon Goethe Institute is planning to start operating at the end of 2013, beginning with German language classes. There have already been talks with the union government to aquire a real estate for the locating of the institute and they are about to be finished. In 2014, working on the colonial-era building, which is supposed to host the Institute in the future, are scheduled to start. Also in 2014 the Institute should work on a full-scale level.
The classes are planned to promote German values, including central values of civil societies, to Myanmar. One important programme in this context will be a planned journalistic exchange between the two countries.
“We think that communal life is essentially based on culture. For that reason, cultural ties between countries are an important part of our policy,” said Professor Lehmann, president of the Goethe Institute.
The Goethe Institute has 150 branches in 95 countries all over the world. Its work is comparable to the institute Francaise or the British Council.
It established a branch in Yangon in 1962 before having to close it again three years later due to the isolation policy of the then-ruling military junta under General Ne Win. In the decades after, relations between the Federal Republic and then-Burma came almost to complete stagnation. Only communist-ruled East Germany, the so-called GDR kept up political, economical and cultural ties with Myanmar. One of the most participants in the cultural exchange programme in the 1970s is Lun Gywe, often named the living master of Myanmar impressionist art.