The diplomatic relations between Belarus and the EU were established in August 1992. In March 1995, a Partnership and Cooperation Agreement was signed between Belarus and the EU in Brussels. Subsequently, the European Union suspended its ratification for political reasons and imposed restrictions on Belarus, including the ban on high and top level political contacts, freezing of practical cooperation and external assistance in various areas, as well as the travel ban for a number of Belarusian officials.
In 2008-2010, Belarus and the EU were engaged in an active dialogue to find ways to normalize the relations. As a result, the EU restrictions were put on hold. The European Commission opened its diplomatic mission in Minsk (as of December 2009 – the Delegation of the European Union). In 2009, Belarus became a full-fledged participant of the EU Eastern Partnership Initiative.
In 2011, the European Union put back in place and subsequently toughened the visa ban against Belarus’ officials. In doing so, the EU referred to its own politically motivated assessments of the outcome of the 2010 presidential campaign and post-electoral developments in Belarus. Restrictions affected also financial transactions with several Belarusian companies. Supplies to Belarus of a number of categories of special-purpose goods and services were embargoed.
Belarus keeps stressing to the EU that its policy of sanctions and restrictions is counterproductive, and invites it to resolve all controversies through dialogue on an equitable and mutually respectable basis. Acting in the spirit of good neighbourhood Belarus seeks to promote pragmatic and mutually beneficial cooperation with the EU and its Member States.
At the end of 2012, high-level official contacts between Belarus, the EU and its Member States were resumed. In 2013-2015, the EU partially reduced the list of sanctioned Belarusian people and enterprises.
Belarus continues to participate in the multilateral track of the Eastern Partnership. The Minister of Foreign Affairs of Belarus Mr. Vladimir Makei participated in the EaP Summits in Vilnius on 28-29 November 2013 and in Riga on 21-21 May 2015.
Belarusian representatives contribute to the activities of all four multilateral EaP platforms (“Democracy, Good Governance and Stability”, “Economic Integration and Approximation with EU Sectoral Policies”, “Energy Security” and “Contacts between People”). Belarus is also part of the EaP Flagman Initiatives on civil protection, integrated border management, development of small and medium-size enterprises (SMEs), environmental management, and energy.
Belarus stands for development of the EaP practical project-oriented activities in line with the interests of all Partner Countries. In cooperation with other countries Belarus promotes the development of concrete projects that would improve energy and transport interconnections, strengthen regional energy security, counter environmental risks, reinforce border security, and raise the efficiency of customs measures accompanying the trade between the EU and its Partner States.
Following Belarus’ proposal, an EaP Business Forum was launched in 2011 as a platform for dialogue and cooperation among business communities, economic agencies and institutions of the Eastern Partners and the EU. In 2014, Belarus proposed an idea to launch a new Flagman Initiative on harmonization of digital markets of the EU and the EaP Partner Countries.
Belarus stands for realization in practice of the EaP fundamental principles of equality and non-discrimination, as well as more differentiation towards the Partner Countries to take into account their aspirations, priorities and needs.
Based on the importance to avoid creation of new dividing lines in the region, Belarus promotes consistently under the EaP the idea of ‘integration of integrations’ which in the long run could provide a basis for harmonization of the integration processes in the European Union and the Eurasian Economic Union, and creation of a common economic and humanitarian space between Vladivostok and Lisbon.
In 2014, Belarus and the EU launched negotiations on visa facilitation and readmission agreements, as well as consultations on modernization issues aimed at identifying a mutually acceptable future form of cooperation between the Government of Belarus and the EU in this sphere.
Belarusian line ministries pursue sectoral dialogues with the European Commission on environment, economy and finance. Expert interaction on customs and transport issues is underway. The ongoing cooperation on border management and energy is governed by the bilateral documents signed in 2009: the Memorandum on launching practical cooperation between the State Border Committee of Belarus and the FRONTEX agency for cooperation at external EU borders, and the Declaration on cooperation between the Government of Belarus and the European Commission in the energy field. In May 2015, Belarus and the European Commission concluded a Cooperation Agreement on an Early Warning Mechanism in the Energy Sector. Belarus was also admitted to the Bologna process, and got an observer status with the Northern Dimension.
Belarus-EU technical assistance cooperation is in good progress. The EU funds are used for modernization of the Belarusian border and customs infrastructure, promotion of exchange of best practices, and implementation of pilot projects in energy, transport, agriculture and food, nature protection, education, culture and other priority spheres.
Under the European Neighbourhood and Partnership Instrument for 2007 – 2013, total amount of 71.6 mln. euro was allocated to Belarus for programmes and projects in energy efficiency, ecology, standardization, medicine, and regional development. Projects with a total budget circa 55 mln. euro were implemented in Belarus under the EU cross-border cooperation programmes “Poland – Ukraine – Belarus”, “Latvia – Lithuania – Belarus”, and “Baltic Sea Region”. Belarus has also taken an active part in the EU thematic programmes and instruments TEMPUS, Erasmus Mundus, TAIEX, and others.
In 2014, the European Commission adopted a National Indicative Programme for Belarus for 2014-2017. Social policy, environment and regional development were chosen as the three Programme priorities. Belarus is currently working out the conditions for participation in the EU regional and cross-border cooperation programmes for 2014 – 2020 under the new European Neighbourhood Instrument. More detailed information can be found on the National Coordinating Unit Belarus website