Geographically, historically and culturally Belarus is an integral part of Europe, situated at the crossroads of major transportation and trade routes that link various regions of the European continent. The country contributes significantly to security in Europe, fight against drug trafficking, illegal arms trade, illegal migration and trafficking in human beings.
Our country ensures safe transit of the energy resources (up to 30 per cent of the natural gas and 50 per cent of oil) delivered from Russia to a large part of European consumers. Hundreds of million tons in transit cargos cross Belarus annually. Our country’s capacity to further contribute to prosperity and economic stability in Europe keeps growing with the coming into effect of the contractual framework that deepens the integration within the Common Economic Space of Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia.
Since Belarus gained its independence two decades ago it has established diplomatic relations with practically all European states. 28 Belarusian diplomatic missions and consulates currently operate in the following 21 countries of Europe: Austria, Bulgaria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Switzerland, Turkey and the United Kingdom.
Most recently, in 2011, the Embassy in Finland and Consulates General in Munich (Germany) and Istanbul (Turkey) have been opened. Diplomatic relations between the Republic of Belarus and the Principality of Andorra were established.
Over the recent years the institution of Honorary Consul of the Republic of Belarus abroad has underwent further development. At the moment Honorary Consuls represent Belarus in 14 European countries including Turkey and contribute to promotion of bilateral relations, human exchanges and contacts between business communities.
One of the focuses of the Belarusian foreign policy is the development of friendly, equal and mutually beneficial relations with the EU Member States. According to the President of Belarus A.Lukashenko, “European Union is one of the major vectors for Belarus in the surrounding world. Economically as well as politically Belarus and European Union are crucial partners for each other”.
The European Union became a No1 export destination for Belarus in 2007-2009. An ever growing and substantial trade surplus traditionally marks Belarus’ trade with EU Member States.
Over the past decade (2001 to 2011) Belarus – EU trade increased tenfold to reach USD 24.4 bn in 2011 (a 161.7 per cent increase compared to the level of 2010). Belarusian export to the EU practically doubled against the 2010 figures and amounted to USD 15.7 bn (a 8,1 bn surplus compared to the level of 2010). At the same time import from the EU grew by 15 per cent to USD 8.7 bn. The overall Belarus — EU trade surplus rose to USD 7.04 bn in 2011.
The key trade and economic partners of Belarus in Europe are the Netherlands, Germany, Latvia, Poland and Italy.
In 2011, 5 meetings of bilateral trade and economic commissions and 6 joint economic forums were organized in cooperation with European countries. High-ranking business delegations from countries like United Kingdom, Germany, Austria, Lithuania, Latvia, Italy, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Slovenia are regularly visiting our country.
Belarusian companies keep expanding their presence in Europe and upgrading their external distribution and export-promotion networks. A number of Belarusian commercial and investment projects are under way in Bulgaria, Hungary, Germany, Italy, Lithuania, Poland, the Netherland, France, the Czech Republic and Estonia.
Comprehensive cooperation with the European Union contributes crucially to the country’s increasingly diversified foreign trade, investment activity, modernization and growing competitiveness of its economy.
Ensuring compliance of Belarusian products with European quality standards is a vital element of the national export promotion policy in Europe. The national standards system increasingly harmonized with the EU norms and regulations is a key to better access of Belarusian goods to the European market.
One of priorities in Belarus’ cooperation with the European Union is attracting European investments, first of all in research-intensive and high-tech sectors, agriculture, energy efficiency, alternative energy and transit areas.
United Kingdom, Cyprus, Austria, the Netherlands and Italy are top investors in Belarusian economy. Altogether, European countries invested more than USD 8 bn in Belarus in 2011.
Investment Forums organized by the Belarusian Government on a regular basis in recent years are an important way of advertising business opportunities in Belarus to international community and attracting foreign investments to our country. The first Forum took place in London in 2008, the second one – in Minsk in 2009, the third one – on 17 November 2010 in Frankfurt-am-Main during the European Financial Week. In addition, a number of regional business fora took place in 2011 in cooperation with Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, the Netherlands and Slovenia.
For more detailed overview of cooperation between Belarus and European countries see websites of the Belarusian diplomatic missions in Austria, Bulgaria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Switzerland, Turkey and the United Kingdom.