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Belarus and European countries

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 Eurasian Economic Union

After Belarus became independent, it established diplomatic relations practically with all European states. 28 Belarusian diplomatic missions currently operate in the following 22 countries of Europe: Austria, Bulgaria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, 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 24 European countries including Turkey and fostering bilateral relations, human exchanges and contacts between the business communities.

In 2019, following events took place:

3 visits of the President of the Republic of Belarus: to Austria (the first official visit in the history of bilateral relation), Serbia, Turkey;

3 visits of the heads of states / governments to our country: of the Federal Chancellor of Austria (for the first time), the Chairman of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina (for the first time), the President of Serbia;

3 visits of the Prime-Minister of the Republic of Belarus: to the United Kingdom (2 visits) and to Italy;

2 visits of the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Belarus: to Germany and Sweden (the last one was combined with an Eastern Partnership event);

6 visits to the Republic of Belarus of the foreign ministers of: Austria, Hungary, Latvia, Turkey, Sweden and Finland. The foreign ministers of Sweden and Finland (within its Presidency in the Council of the EU) paid a combined visit Belarus on their own initiative.

The Minister of State for Trade Policy of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland Department for International Trade, George Hollingbery, visited Belarus. During the visit, the parties launched a preparatory session of the Commercial Dialogue (analogue of an intergovernmental commission).

Interministerial consultations on the Deputy Ministers’ level took place with Bulgaria, Croatia, Czechia, Estonia, Finland, Germany and France (trilateral), Italy, Latvia, the Netherlands, Switzerland.

Interaction between parliaments developed further. Among the first time visits: a visit of the Chair of the Council of the Republic of the National Assembly of the Republic of Belarus M.Myasnikovich to Poland, a visit of the Parliament (the States General) delegation of the Netherlands, a visit of the French Senators headed by the Chair of the Friendship Group “France-Belarus” of the Senate of France C.Guene.

In May 2019, the Federal Council of Switzerland decided to upgrade the status of the diplomatic mission of Switzerland in Minsk to the Embassy level.

The serious restriction of mobility in Europe due to the spread of COVID-19 and the West’s revision of approaches to cooperation with Belarus following the results of the presidential elections in our country led to a noticeable reduction in the intensity and level of contacts between Minsk and European countries in 2020.

Considering these factors, the highest activity on the Belarusian-European track occurred in the 1st quarter of the year 2020. 

A significant impetus to the development of relations with Hungary and Latvia was given by the visits to Belarus of the Prime Ministers of these states V.Orban and K.Karins.

An important event in 2020 in cooperation with the European countries was the opening of the Swiss Embassy in our country and the appointment of the first Ambassador in the history of bilateral relations. The head of the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs, I.Cassis, visited Belarus to participate in the opening ceremony of the diplomatic mission and hold bilateral negotiations.

The first half of the year was characterized by a noticeable positive dynamic in relations with Poland. Numerous events and contacts took place, including at the level of the heads of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, customs services, and law enforcement agencies. The office of Honorary Consul of Belarus in Olsztyn was opened, and an agreement was signed between the Government of the Republic of Belarus and the Government of the Republic of Poland on cooperation in the field of protection and rational use of transboundary waters.

The visits of Belarusian Foreign Minister V. Makei to Bulgaria, Germany and Latvia, as well as the visits of the foreign ministers of Lithuania, Hungary and the Holy See to our country made a significant contribution to solving numerous practical foreign policy and foreign economic problems in the bilateral format.

The multifaceted cooperation with Germany was further developed. Two meetings of the bilateral Strategic Advisory Group, established in 2019, were held. Regular meetings of the Belarusian-German Working Group on Trade and Investment and the “Belarus-Saxony” Business Council were held, and the delegation of the German-Belarusian Parliamentary Group of the Bundestag paid an official visit to Belarus.

The EU is the second largest market for Belarusian exports. In 2020, trade in goods with the EU amounted to $12 billion, a 9.2 per cent decline as compared to 2019. Exports to the EU amounted to $5.5 billion (minus 10.2 per cent to 2019), imports reached $6.5 billion (8.3 per cent decrease compared to 2019). The negative balance for Belarus was $1 billion (similar in 2019). The percentage of EU-inbound exports in the Belarusian aggregate exports was 18.8 per cent (18.5 per cent in 2019).

The key economic partners of Belarus in Europe according to the 2020 bilateral trade indicators are Germany, Poland, the United Kingdom, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Italy, Turkey, Latvia, France, Belgium, the Czech Republic.

The year 2019 saw meetings of the intergovernmental commissions on trade and economic cooperation with Austria, Czechia, Italy, Serbia, Slovakia and Turkey.

Belarus organized bilateral economic forums with our partners from Austria, the United Kingdom, Germany, Bulgaria, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Poland, Turkey, France, Czechia and Switzerland.

Among those visiting our country are high-ranking business delegations from such countries as Austria, Belgium, Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Lithuania, Latvia, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia, and Poland, Switzerland.

Belarusian companies keep expanding their presence in Europe and upgrading their external distribution and export-promotion networks.

Comprehensive cooperation with the European Union contributes 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 third of all foreign investment brought into the economy of the Republic of Belarus comes from the European countries.

In 2018, the investments from the EU amounted to $5.4 billion, of which direct investments - $4.6 billion (in 2017 - $5.2 and 4.2 billion, respectively). Leading investors in the Belarusian economy are the United Kingdom, Cyprus, Poland, Germany,  Austria, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Latvia, Switzerland.

In 2020, 583,341.8 million dollars of direct foreign investments were attracted from the EU member states or 19.6 per cent more than in 2019 (487,804, 5 million dollars).

Regular investment forums 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. On May 24, 2016, Vienna hosted the first ever Belarusian-European Investment Forum, organized by the European Commission together with the Belarusian and Austrian sides. On October 27, 2017 the Belarusian-European Economic Forum was held in Luxembourg.

⇒ Belarus in International Relations

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