SWP was set up in 1962 by private initiative in Ebenhausen, near Munich, and given the legal status of a foundation. Late in 2000 its headquarters moved to Berlin, which has been SWP's new home since January 2001. Since January 1965, when the Bundestag unanimously backed the establishment of an independent research centre, the Institute has been federally funded. This support is supplemented by contributions from other research sponsors.
SWP has been based in Berlin since January 2001, when it absorbed staff from the Cologne-based Federal Institute for Eastern Regional and International Studies (BIOst) and the current affairs department of the Munich-based South-East Europe Institute (SOI). More than 1,600 reports produced by BIOst between 1967 and 2000 are available in a virtual library (ViFaOst).
In 2009 SWP opened an office in Brussels.
In 2012 SWP celebrated its 50th anniversary. A film was produced to mark the occasion, featuring associates, clients and partners. An anniversary brochure relates SWP’s history.
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