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.
Belarus ensures safe transit of energy resources supplied by Russia enroute to scores of European consumers. Another input by the country to prosperity and economic stability in Europe is the implementation of agreements and arrangements within the Common Economic Space of Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia.
After Belarus became independent, it established diplomatic relations practically with all European states. 26 Belarusian diplomatic missions and consulates currently operate in the following 20 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. Many of them are accredited concurrently in the neighboring countries.
In the recent years, more emphasis was given to the institution of Honorary Consul of the Republic of Belarus, with such diplomats of honour representing Belarus in 14 European countries including Turkey and fostering bilateral relations, human exchanges and contacts between the 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 Aleksandr Lukashenko, “the European Union is one of major vectors for Belarus in the surrounding world. Economically as well as politically Belarus and the European Union are pivotal partners for each other”.
The EU is the second largest market for Belarusian exports.
Over the past decade the trade between Belarus and the EU has increased tenfold.
However, 2013 saw a number of difficulties in the economic cooperation between Belarus and the European region. The trade with Europe was exposed to adverse repercussions owing to such factors as political tensions between Belarus and the EU, lack of EU tariff preferences for Belarus, global financial and economic crunch and deteriorating macroeconomic situation in the euro area as a whole.
In 2013, trade with the EU shrank by 21.8 percent to $21 billion, as compared to 2012. Belarusian exports went down by 40.2 percent to $10.5 billion. The percentage of EU-inbound exports in the Belarusian aggregate exports fell from 38.1 percent to 28.2 percent in 2012. The imports from the EU countries increased by 12.9 percent to reach $10.5 billion. Largely dwindling Belarusian exports and growing imports from the EU made the trade balance negative in the amount of $20 million.
The key economic partners of Belarus in Europe are Germany, Netherlands, Poland, Italy, Lithuania, United Kingdom, Latvia.
2013 saw meetings of the intergovernmental commissions on trade and economic cooperation with the Czech Republic, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, and Turkey.
In 2014 Similar meetings were held with Austria Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Slovenia.
Belarus organized bilateral economic forums with our partners from Austria, United Kingdom, Germany, Bulgaria, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Poland, Turkey, France, Czech Republic, Switzerland.
Among those visiting our country are high-ranking business delegations from such countries as the United Kingdom, Germany, Austria, Lithuania, Latvia, Italy, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia, and Poland.
Belarusian companies keep expanding their presence in Europe and upgrading their external distribution and export-promotion networks.
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.
Stronger compliance of Belarusian products with European quality standards is central to the national export promotion policy in Europe. A more harmonized national system of standards with the EU norms and regulations is key to better access of Belarusian goods to the European market.
A priority seen by Belarus in the cooperation with the European Union is raising European investments, first of all in research-intensive and high-tech sectors, agriculture, energy efficiency, alternative energy and transit areas.
About half of all foreign investment brought into the economy of the Republic of Belarus comes from the European countries. In 2013 the investments from the EU amounted to $6.54 billion (in 2012 – $6.48 billion), of which direct investments – $4.6 billion (in 2012 – $4.6 billion), net direct investment – $0.73 billion (in 2012 – $0.46 billion).
Leading investors in the Belarusian economy are the United Kingdom, Cyprus, Netherlands, Austria, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Germany, Switzerland.
Regular investment forums organized by the Belarusian Government in the recent years are an important way of advertising business opportunities in Belarus to the 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 – in Frankfurt-am-Main in 2010 during the European Financial Week.
In November 2014, the UK played host to a Belarusian Investment mini-forum.
For more detailed overview of cooperation between Belarus and the 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.