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Annual Review of Foreign Policy of the Republic of Belarus and Activities of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 2019

The results of 2019 indicate that the growth of strategic instability, increasing geopolitical and geo-economic rivalry, and, as a result, unpredictability and tensions in international relations remain among the main foreign policy trends. Manifestations of these processes are ongoing trade, sanctions, information wars, increased competition for access to markets and resources, and growing contradictions of a humanitarian, religious, and environmental nature.

The list of current challenges to the world community continues to be dominated by security threats, including the collapse of disarmament regimes and arms control system, the build-up of military capabilities and increased spending on defense purposes, manifestations of international terrorism and growing risks in the world’s cyberspace.

The threat of a new global geopolitical, economic, military, and ideological confrontation and the danger of a “big conflict” involving major powers do not abate. 

In the face of growing lack of trust and confrontational rhetoric in the dialogue between the main centers of power, as well as the “stalling” of existing international mechanisms, including the UN and the OSCE, in matters of minimizing and mitigating security threats, Belarus has consistently advocated a new negotiation process on key international security issues (“Helsinki-2”) to stabilize and increase the predictability of international relations.

As practical steps aimed at bringing substance into such a dialogue, building confidence, making a “success story of regional security” based on Belarus’ example, the Belarusian Head of State put forward a number of new important initiatives in 2019. The President declared that the implementation of provisions of terminated Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty should continue, proposed to adopt a multilateral political declaration of responsible states on non-deployment of the Intermediate-Range and Shorter-Range missiles in Europe, offered to form “a belt of cyber good-neighbourliness” on the basis of bilateral and multilateral agreements on ensuring international information security. 

Belarus again hosted a series of significant events – international conference on “Counter-Terrorism and the Use of New and Emerging Technologies” led by the UN (September 3-4), as well as the second major expert forum on the “Minsk Dialogue” platform on “European security: Stepping Back from the Brink” (October, 7-8). 

These events, which were attended by the President of the Republic of Belarus, became important fora for open discussion about the present and future of European and international security, and reaffirmed the status of Minsk as a significant regional platform for inclusive dialogue of all parties concerned.

Minsk agreements retained their significance as one of the key mechanisms of settlement of the situation in Eastern Ukraine. In 2019 Belarus organized 23 meetings within the framework of the Trilateral Contact Group. 

Consistently adhering to the policy of ensuring sovereignty, conducting a balanced multi-vector foreign policy, developing integration processes in the Eurasian space and linking them with other associations and projects within the framework of the “integration of integrations” initiative, Belarus continued to develop cooperation with all foreign partners, regardless of their political clout or financial and economic potential. 

Along with development of multifaceted bilateral and integration ties with our strategic partner – the Russian Federation – Belarus reinforced a positive dynamics in relations with the European Union and its member states and continued the process of normalization of relations with the United States of America. 

On a priority basis, efforts were taken to further develop the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) and make it a full-fledged economic union without exemptions or restrictions, to continue vibrant dialogue in bilateral and multilateral formats within the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). 

Consistently prioritizing “foreign economic diplomacy”, Belarus focused its efforts in this direction on ensuring economic security and moving towards the goal of equal distribution of export supplies among three markets – EAEU, EU, the “far arc” regions. 

In this regard, it was crucial to increase bilateral track of engagement with the states of Asia, Middle East, Africa, Latin America, open new markets and develop existing ones. 

In general, international contacts at the highest and high levels continued their momentum. 15 visits of the President of the Republic of Belarus, 13 visits of the Prime Minister, and 8 visits of the Foreign Minister abroad were made. 9 visits of foreign Heads of State and Government and 8 visits of Foreign Ministers to Belarus were organized. A number of foreign delegations at the highest and high levels visited Minsk to participate in the opening and closing ceremonies of the II European Games. 

Using the potential of sport competitions to enhance the atmosphere of trust and mutual understanding, Belarus confirmed its image of an effective organizer of large-scale events while preparing for and conducting the II European Games (June 21-30) and The Match Europe v USA, a track and field competition (September 9-10). 

Comprehensive work was carried out by the Foreign Ministry and Belarusian missions abroad to commemorate on international arena the landmark for Belarus celebration of the 75th anniversary of liberation from the Nazi invaders. 

With the assistance of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the elections of deputies of the House of Representatives of the National Assembly of the Republic of Belarus (7th convention) were held abroad, 46 polling stations were formed in 38 countries, which allowed 3275 Belarusian citizens to take part in the election campaign. 

The 2019 was an anniversary year for our Ministry of Foreign Affairs – Belarusian diplomatic service celebrated its 100th anniversary. A range of events were organized with the participation of high-level officials of the Republic of Belarus, Ministry employees and veterans, government officials, diplomatic corps, and mass media. 

The network of Belarusian missions abroad that represents the interests of the Republic of Belarus in 58 countries has expanded (including the accreditation of non-resident ambassadors in 114 states). 

Foreign states are represented in Belarus by 50 embassies, 3 offices of embassies, 2 trade missions, 39 consular offices; international organizations – by 18 missions. 83 foreign diplomatic missions based in Moscow, Vilnius, Warsaw and Kiev are concurrently accredited to Belarus. 

1. Traditionally, the high dynamics of Belarusian-Russian relations was supported by intensive contacts at the highest and high levels. 

In 2019 the Heads of State held 9 meetings in different formats; the Heads of Government held 7 meetings. 

In January-November 2019 Russia accounted for nearly half of Belarusian foreign trade (49.0 percent of the value of foreign trade in goods, 41.1 percent in total exports, 55.7 percent in total imports). 

Throughout 2019, intensive work was carried out to develop proposals for deepening the Belarusian-Russian integration. In order to achieve one of the fundamental goals of the Treaty on the Creation of a Union State – to ensure equal conditions for economic entities of the two countries – the parties initiated a draft of the updated Program of Action of the Republic of Belarus and the Russian Federation for the implementation of the provisions of the Treaty, as well as developed draft “road maps” to it. The negotiation process continued on a series of unregulated important issues that hinder the achievement of that goal. 

The system of interregional relations between the two countries has proven its effectiveness as a mechanism for strengthening trade and economic cooperation. 

Heads of 7 regions of the Russian Federation visited the Republic of Belarus. During the 6th Forum of Regions (July 16-18), which was held in St. Petersburg with the participation of the Heads of State, 84 documents on cooperation were signed, as well as commercial contracts worth about $ 0.55 billion. 

Traditionally, close coordination of the two States’ actions on international arena was provided on a systematic basis. 

More than 20 consultations between the foreign ministries were held on various issues. Their main future-oriented avenues were included in the next Coordinated Actions Program in the field of foreign policy of member states of the Treaty on the Creation of a Union State for 2020-2021, which was signed during the joint meeting of the collegiums of the ministries of foreign affairs of Belarus and Russia in Moscow on November 8. 

2. The year 2019 marked the 5th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty on the Eurasian Economic Union and the 25th anniversary of the idea of Eurasian integration. Together with its partners, Belarus continued to take steps aimed at strengthening the Union’s potential and increasing its resilience to growing external challenges. 

The implementation of concepts for the formation of common markets for gas, oil and petroleum products has begun. An Agreement on the formation of a common electricity market was signed. 

The digital agenda of the EAEU was developing. Within its framework, a project of “Eurasian network of industrial cooperation, subcontracting and technology transfer” was launched. The Eurasian network established as part of the project aims to provide cooperative interaction of manufacturers of member states, involvement of small and medium-sized enterprises in production chains of large enterprises, promotion of industrial products to third countries markets using international digital ecosystems. 

An Agreement on the mechanism of traceability of goods imported into the customs territory of the Eurasian Economic Union was signed. This was a major step forward to solve the problem of confirming the legality of the turnover of goods when they are moved from the territory of one member state of the EAEU to another. 

The Concept of forming a common financial market of the EAEU was approved, which defines the main goals, tasks and key directions of forming a common financial market, indicating the stages and measures for their implementation, the legal basis for its functioning, the order of information interaction and administrative cooperation of the Union’s financial market regulators. 

The Agreement on pensions for working population of Eurasian Economic Union member states was signed, aimed at providing citizens of the EAEU member states with the opportunity to form pension rights for periods of work in the EAEU member states and to implement them in the future, while living on the territory of any country of the Union. 

A systemic work on the conclusion of trade agreements with third countries continued. Trade agreements with Singapore and Serbia were signed, a Temporary Agreement leading to the creation of free-trade zone with Iran and the Agreement on trade and economic cooperation with China came into force. 

The presidency in the EAEU institutions in 2020 was transferred to Belarus. 

Traditionally, the agenda of the Commonwealth of Independent States was focused on issues of economic and humanitarian cooperation. 

The Heads of State signed a Declaration on strategic economic cooperation of member states of the Commonwealth, and within the framework of the Council of the Heads of Government was signed the Concept of the cooperation in the field of digital development of the society and Plan of the urgent activities aimed at its realization. 

The work on the draft Agreement on free trade in services continued, as well as the preparation of the updated Concept of the CIS further development and the Strategy of CIS economic development for 2021-2030.
Preparation of the draft of the Interstate program of innovation cooperation between CIS member states for the period up to 2030 was initiated. 

Implementation of the Interstate program “Cultural Capitals of the Commonwealth” continued (in 2019 the City of Brest, Belarus, gained the status of “cultural capital”), an Agreement on cooperation in the domain of museums was signed. 

Adoption and distribution of joint statements of the CIS member states on the relevant issues of global and regional agenda in key international organizations (UN, OSCE) was developing. Heads of State addressed the peoples of the Commonwealth and the world community on the occasion of the 75th anniversary of the Victory of the Soviet people in the Great Patriotic war of 1941-1945. A number of similar documents was signed at the level of foreign ministries, for instance, Joint statement of the support of practical steps on the prevention of arms race in space. 

A number of fundamental decisions were made on security issues: the Convention on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons was signed, the Program of cooperation in the fight against terrorism and other violent manifestations of extremism for 2020-2022 was approved, and the Information Security Strategy was signed. 

Holding of multilateral, multi-level consultations of the ministries of foreign affairs within the framework of the Commonwealth continued. The Program of action on the revitalization of partnership between foreign ministries of the CIS member states was adopted. 

Cooperation between structural units of the CIS Executive Committee and Eurasian Economic Commission was developing within the framework of Memorandum of Cooperation dated November 27, 2018.

3. Bilateral relations with CIS states and Georgia were intensively developing. 

Intergovernmental and interagency dialogue was conducted, implementation of industrial and agricultural projects was developed to pursue the Belarusian-Azerbaijani partnership and implement agreements at the highest level. The Chairman of the Milli Majlis (the National Assembly) of the Republic of Azerbaijan took part in the opening ceremony of the II European Games. 

Intensive contacts with Armenia were maintained. Working visit of Armenian President Armen Sarkissian to Belarus (June 30 – July 2), during which the President attended a closing ceremony of the II European Games; meeting of Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko with Prime Minister of Armenia Nikol Pashinyan in Yerevan (October 1) were organized. 

Strategic cooperation with Kazakhstan in political, trade, economic and other spheres was confirmed during the official visit of the Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko to the Republic of Kazakhstan (October 25), during which opening ceremony of new permises of the Embassy of the Republic of Belarus in Nur-Sultan was held.

Active contacts between all branches of power within the EAEU, CIS, Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) and Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) contributed to the development of Belarusian-Kyrgyz relations. The state and prospects for further cooperation were discussed by the two Heads of State at the CSTO summit in Bishkek (November 28). 

The Belarus-Moldova dialogue at the highest and high levels further developed. The President of the Republic of Moldova Igor Dodon paid two working visits to Belarus (April 10, June 20), and a bilateral meeting of Heads of Government was held in London at the EBRD investment summit for Eastern Partnership Initiative countries (November 22).

An official visit of the President of Tajikistan Emomali Rahmon to Belarus (June 28-30) and his participation in the closing ceremony of the II European Games contributed to strengthening of positive dynamics of Belarus-Tajik relations. 

Constructive dialogue with Turkmenistan was carried out on multilateral and integration platforms. Within the framework of the CIS Heads of States’ Council session in Ashkhabad, a bilateral meeting (October 11) between presidents of Belarus and Turkmenistan was held. The Belarusian-Turkmen business forum was organized, and cooperation between foreign ministries of the two countries actively developed. 

An official visit of the President of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev to Belarus (July 31-August 1) contributed to the developing of Belarus-Uzbek cooperation. Within the framework of the visit, Forum of regions of Belarus and Uzbekistan was held. 

Vibrant cooperation with Ukraine in political, trade, economic, and other spheres continued. The first meeting of the Belarusian-Ukrainian Working Group on interregional and cross-border cooperation was held. On October 3-4, Zhytomyr hosted the Second Forum of the regions of Belarus and Ukraine, which was attended by presidents of the two countries. The interagency dialogue has significantly intensified. Meetings of 14 Belarusian-Ukrainian working groups on various issues of bilateral cooperation were held.

An intensive dialogue at the highest and high levels with Georgia continued. A working visit of the President of Georgia Salome Zourabichvili (June 20-21) and official visit of the Prime Minister of Georgia Mamuka Bakhtadze (August 23) to Belarus were made. The holding of “Tbilisoba” festival in Minsk became a significant humanitarian event. 

During the year, 6 meetings of intergovernmental commissions on trade and economic cooperation with countries of the region were held. 

4. In relations with the European Union, a positive momentum was consolidated, the cooperation is becoming ever more intense and predictable. 

During the visit of European Commissioner for Budget and Human Resources Günther Oettinger to Belarus (February 18), the sides agreed on joint planning of technical assistance of the EU to Belarus for 2021-2027. Visits to Minsk of the Lithuanian member of the European Parliament Rolandas Paksas (May 2), Vice-President of the European Investment Bank (EIB) Vazil Hudak (July 24), delegation of the EU Council Working Group on Eastern Europe and Central Asia (COEST) (July 8-9), Deputy General Director of the European Commission for Neighborhood Affairs Maciej Popowski (October 30 – 31) were organized.

Minister of Foreign Affairs of Belarus Vladimir Makei participated in the annual session of ministers of foreign affairs and a high-level conference of the Eastern Partnership in Brussels (May 13-14). Minister Makei also participated in a meeting of ministers of foreign affairs of Eastern Partnership countries in Stockholm (November 5). 

The Belarus-EU Coordination Group continued to function (meetings were held on April 24-25 in Minsk and December 17-18 in Brussels). Sectoral dialogues were held in the fields of economy and finance, trade and customs.

The Ministry of foreign Affairs assisted representatives of Belarusian public administration bodies in the work on numerous formats of cooperation of the Eastern Partnership. In order to coordinate the participation of the Belarusian beneficiaries in the EU cross-border cooperation programs “Poland-Belarus-Ukraine” and “Latvia-Lithuania-Belarus” and to simplify the procedure for disbursing the relevant funds, a special Decree of the President of the Republic of Belarus and a Resolution of the Council of Ministers have been elaborated and adopted. 

As part of intensive expansion of investment cooperation with the EU, agreements were signed with the European Investment Bank aimed at the reconstruction of the M7 Minsk – Vilnius highway section and the Kamenny Log checkpoint in the amount of 110 million euros and the modernization of water treatment systems in the amount of 66 million euros. 

Negotiations with the EU on visa facilitation and readmission agreements were completed. 

5.  Bilateral relations with European countries were reinforced. 

Political dialogue with Austria reached unprecedented level. President of the Republic of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko paid the first in the history of bilateral relations official visit to that country (November 11-12). Federal Chancellor of Austria Sebastian Kurz (March 28-29), and Federal Minister for Europe, Integration and Foreign Affairs Karin Kneisl (January 15-16) visited Belarus in response. Active cooperation in trade, economic and investment spheres and the development of interregional ties continued.

Consistent work on the increase of effectiveness of political contacts with Bulgaria was carried out. Ministers of foreign affairs of Belarus and Bulgaria had a meeting on the margins of the OSCE Ministerial Council in December. A practice of the organization of political consultations at the level of deputy ministers of foreign affairs was renewed. The discussion of the possibilities of the realization of joint projects in trade and economic spheres continued. 

Belarus-Hungary relations had a serious impetus with the visit of the Hungarian Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Péter Szijjártó (January 14) who was received by the President and the Prime Minister of the Republic of Belarus. Among the signed bilateral documents is an intergovernmental Agreement on the promotion and mutual protection of investments. 

Contacts with Germany were intensive in both political and economic dimensions. The Belarusian Minister of Foreign Affairs Vladimir Makei paid a visit to Germany (October 20-22). State Secretary of the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy Dr. Ulrich Nussbaum visited Belarus (September 25-27) as well as Parliamentary State Secretary to the Federal Minister of the Interior, Building and Community Stephan Mayer (June 28 – July 1), Chairman of the German-Belarusian Parliamentary Group Mark Hauptmann and other members of the delegation (June 20-23). Belarus-Germany Non-Governmental Business Cooperation Council held its regular meeting (July 1), third Belarusian-German economic forum took place in Mittweida (November 5), Belarusian Economic Forum was organized in Bavaria (November 13). 

Official visit of the President of the Republic of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko to Ankara (April 16) became the key event of the year in Belarusian-Turkish relations. Negotiations at the highest level were followed by the organization of a regular session of the Joint Intergovernmental Economic Commission and a bilateral business forum, where contracts were signed for the supply of Belarusian products to Turkey in the amount of more than $300 million. As a follow-up to the political dialogue at the highest level, Foreign Minister of the Republic of Turkey Mevlüt Cavusoglu paid an official visit to the Republic of Belarus (August 27-28).

Relations with Spain were characterized by positive dynamics. The focus was on developing interregional ties and finding new opportunities for trade, economic and investment cooperation. The first consultations of foreign ministries on consular issues were held. 

Belarusian-Italian relations were characterized by positive dynamics. Prime Minister of the Republic of Belarus Sergei Rumas paid a visit to Rome (February 6-8), during which the second meeting of the intergovernmental Belarusian-Italian Commission on economic cooperation was held with a bilateral business forum dedicated to it. The office of the Italian Trade Agency (ICE) was opened in Minsk.

Cooperation with Latvia further developed. Dialogue at the level of heads of foreign policy departments was carried out during the working visit of Minister of Foreign Affairs of Latvia Edgars Rinkevics to Belarus (July 19-20), annual session of the UN General Assembly in new York (September 25) and the OSCE Ministerial Council in Bratislava (December 4-5). Inter-parliamentary contacts and interaction between law enforcement agencies, state control bodies, customs, border and rescue services continued. The 14th meeting of the Belarusian-Latvian Intergovernmental Commission on economic, scientific and technical cooperation and the meeting of the Business Ccooperation Council were held in Minsk. 

Preparation for the World Hockey Championship, which will be held in Minsk and Riga in 2021, became the cross-cutting topic of bilateral cooperation. 

Trade and investment cooperation with Lithuania has maintained a positive trend. Nevertheless, the Lithuanian side’s rhetoric regarding the construction of the Belarusian nuclear power plant remained the dominant factor that hindered the development of bilateral political and interagency contacts. 

The first high level visit to Lithuania of Deputy Prime Minister of Belarus Igor Petrishenko and contacts with the country’s leadership should be viewed as one prerequisites for the restoration of political dialogue. Mr. Petrishenko took part in the ceremony of reburial of the remains of Constantine Kalinovsky in Vilnius (November 22).

Positive track of bilateral dialogue with the Netherlands continued. The first visit of the Dutch Parliamentary delegation to Belarus took place (March 24-25), the next round of political consultations of Foreign ministries of the two countries was held (May 28), and a regular meeting of foreign ministers was held on the margins of the OSCE Ministerial Council in Bratislava (December 4-5).

The dynamic of relations with Poland was positive. For the first time in the history of bilateral relations, the official visit to Poland was paid by Chairman of the Council of the Republic of the National Assembly Mikhail Myasnikovich (February 11-14). Negotiations and meetings were held with the President, the Prime Minister, marshals of the Sejm and Senate of Poland, a number of ministers, and the Belarusian diaspora. The dialogue of ministries of foreign affairs became more intensive. Foreign ministers met on the margins of the UN General Assembly in New York (September 24) and the OSCE Ministerial Council in Bratislava (December 5). Active work continued at the level of security and defence agencies. In Warsaw and Brest, the State Secretary of the Security Council of Belarus Stanislav Zas held talks with the Head of the National Security Bureau of Poland, Pawel Soloh (August 31). An intensive inter-parliamentary dialogue continued between the specialized agencies responsible for transport, health, social security, border protection, education, and culture.

Specific agreements and measures were implemented to develop multifaceted cooperation with Romania, primarily in the trade and economic sphere. Interdepartmental dialogue developed in the fields of agriculture and forestry, through antitrust agencies, and in the fields of transport and communications. 

The main event of the Belarusian-Serbian relations was the official visit of the President of the Republic of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko to Serbia (December 2-3). The countries signed the $ 115 million contracts within the framework of the Belarusian-Serbian business forum. The official visit of the Head of State of Belarus was preceded by a bilateral meeting of the Presidents of Belarus and Serbia on the “Belt & Road” Forum in Beijing (April 26) and the visit of the Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić to the II European Games in Minsk (June 22). Strengthening and expanding trade and economic ties was also discussed in Moscow during the negotiations between Heads of Government of Belarus and Serbia (October 25). Contacts between foreign ministries of the two countries took place on the margins of the UN General Assembly in New York (September 27) and Belgrade (December 2).

The first official visit to the Republic of Belarus (June 3-4) of the Chairman of the National Assembly of the Slovak Republic Andrej Danko gave an impetus to the development of the inter-parliamentary cooperation.

Presidency of Slovakia in the OSCE and the Visegrád Group contributed to the intensification of the dialogue between foreign ministries. A meeting of foreign ministers of the two countries was held at the UN General Assembly in New York (September 26). The exchange of visits at the level of deputy foreign ministers was organized. The 14th session of the Belarusian-Slovak Joint Commission on trade, economic, scientific and technical cooperation was held in Minsk (October 23-24). Interregional cooperation intensified. 

A key event in relations with Finland and Sweden was the joint visit of foreign ministers of the two countries Pekka Haavisto and Ann Linde to Belarus, who were received by the Head of Belarus (November 25).

During the year, a meeting of foreign ministers of Belarus and Finland was held within the framework of the UN General Assembly in New York (September 27), the new office of the Embassy of Finland in Minsk was opened (April 18), and consultations of foreign ministries were held (June 14). 

The Minister of Foreign Affairs of Belarus paid a visit to Sweden (November 5). The country was also visited by the Belarusian delegations headed by the Minister of Natural Resources and Environmental Protection and the Minister of Transport and Communications (December 9-10). Within the framework of inter-parliamentary interaction, a delegation of the Swedish Defence Commission, which included a number of Riksdag deputies, visited Belarus (March 20), and Belarusian parliamentarians visited Sweden to participate in multilateral events (November 5-6). 

Belarusian-French cooperation was actively developing. A range of events were held, many of which were organized for the first time in the history of bilateral relations, such as a visit of the French Senate delegation to Belarus (April 15-19), the Belarusian-French-German political consultations (May 29), and a visit of the French Ministry of Defence delegation to Belarus (March 25). The Belarusian-French Association for the Development of Economic Cooperation “Belfrantorginvest” has started its activity.

Dynamic development of Belarusian-Czech cooperation was ensured. Consultations between the foreign ministries were held ( January 31), as well as the 11th meeting of the Belarusian-Czech mixed Commission on economic, industrial, scientific and technical cooperation and four working groups in the field of industry, energy, scientific, technical cooperation and agriculture (April 18). A series of large-scale economic events were organized in Czech Republic and Belarus. Interaction at the regional level and interagency cooperation continued.

Bilateral relations with Switzerland have reached a new level. The status of the Swiss diplomatic mission in Belarus was upgraded to an Embassy. Visits to Switzerland at the level of the First Deputy Prime Minister of Belarus (4-6 June 9-10 July), the Chairman of the Board of the National Bank of Belarus (20-21 February) were held, as well as the exchange of visits of heads of parliamentary friendship groups, the leadership of the Ministry of Emergency Situations of Belarus and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs. A bilateral business forum was held in Geneva with the participation of the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Belarus (April 8), and a regular meeting of the Belarusian-Swiss Business Council was conducted in Minsk (November 26). Consultations of foreign ministries of the two countries were organized in Bern (December 12). Honorary Consul of the Republic of Belarus in the City of Pratteln (Switzerland) was appointed. 

The Honorary Consulate of Belarus was also opened in the City of Schaan (Liechtenstein).

The meeting of the Foreign Ministers of Belarus and Estonia held in the framework of the OSCE Ministerial Council in Bratislava (December 5) outlined the prospects for high-level bilateral contacts in 2020.

Bilateral relations with countries where Belarusian embassies are accredited concurrently were actively developed: 

Bosnia and Herzegovina (on June 20 the first visit of Chairman of the Presidium of B&H Milorad Dodik to the Republic of Belarus was held, the delegation of the leadership of the Republic of Srpska of BiH visited Minsk at the level of Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Physical Planning, Construction and Ecology, as well as the Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Water Management on September 19);

Denmark (simultaneous accreditation of new ambassadors of the two countries was conducted); 

Cyprus (the meeting of foreign ministers of two countries was held and a bilateral Memorandum of Understanding and Political Consultations was signed (September 25) on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly. Consultations on consular issues were discussed for the first time (November 4), positive dynamics of inter-parliamentary cooperation was maintained);

Malta (the visit of the Belarusian delegation headed by Deputy Minister of Economy was paid on December 2-3);

Norway (two meetings of the foreign ministers of the two countries were held on the margins of multilateral events. The inter-parliamentary dialogue was activated, and a meeting of the Belarusian-Norwegian Mixed Commission on international road transport was held on April 2-3 after a long break); 

Croatia (ex-President of Croatia Stjepan Mesić participated in the Forum of Minsk Dialogue (October 8). Mr. Mesić met with the Head of the Belarusian state. During the 74th session of the UN General Assembly in New York the meeting of ministers of foreign affairs of the two countries was held (September 25). Consultations of the Belarusian and Croatian Foreign Ministries were held on March 5). 

6. The atmosphere of mutual trust was being steadily restored in relations with the United States. Mutual trade in goods and services increased. Dialogue on human rights, combating human trafficking and organized crime was developing. The visit of the National Security Advisor of the U.S. President John Bolton (August 29) to Belarus was organized. At the invitation of the American side, consultations among the secretaries of the security councils of Belarus, Poland, the U.S. and Ukraine were held in Warsaw (August 31). U.S. Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs David Hale paid a visit to Belarus (September 17). During he visit, the parties announced their intention to restore bilateral diplomatic relations at the level of ambassadors. 

Dialogue with Canada continued to develop. The next round of consultations between foreign ministries was held (April 12). As part of the development of interregional cooperation, visits of Belarusian business delegations to Canada were organized, and Belarus economic events were held in several Canadian provinces. 

7. The year 2019 is marked by the promotion of cooperation across the entire spectrum of relations with the Asian states

Traditionally, the high dynamics of interaction and strategic partnership with China was supported by the meetings of the President of the Republic of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko and Chinese Head of State Xi Jinping on the margins of the second forum of international cooperation “Belt and Road” in Beijing (April 26), as well as during the meeting of the Council of Heads of State of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) in Bishkek (June 14). 

A regional extension of the Beijing forum became the international forum under the “Belt and road” initiative in the Great Stone Industrial Park (July 2). In 2019, 21 residents were registered in the Park, and the interest of the European partners towards this project increased. In bilateral trade, the growth of Belarusian export was noted, the main driver of which was the supply of food products to the Chinese market. In the sphere of humanitarian cooperation, this year was marked as “a year of education of Belarus in China”. An intergovernmental Agreement on Mutual Recognition of Educational Documents and Documents on Academic Degrees was signed (May 23).

In order to strengthen the political foundation of relations with the countries of the region, Belarus maintained the dialogue at the highest and high levels with India. Meetings of the President of the Republic of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko with Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi were held on the margins of the SCO Council of Heads of State in Bishkek (June 14), and meeting of ministers of foreign affairs of the two countries were held in the framework of the 74th Session of the UN General Assembly (September 25). Implementation of joint pharmaceutical projects is developing in Belarus.

In 2019, the pace of development in relations with Pakistan resumed. Political dialogue between the two countries was given an impetus by the meeting of the Head of Belarusian State with Prime Minister of Pakistan Imran Khan on the margins of the SCO Heads of State Council session in Bishkek (June 14). Political contacts were promoted in Islamabad during the fourth round of consultations between the foreign ministries of the two countries (November 25-26).

A visit to Vietnam (September 23-27) of the Deputy Prime Minister of Belarus and the official visit of the President of the National Assembly of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam to Belarus (12-15 December) contributed to the maintaining of high dynamics of the Belarusian-Vietnamese dialogue. The first joint factory for the assembly of the Belarusian automotive equipment in Vietnam was opened. 

Key area of cooperation between Belarus and Indonesia is trade and economy. The EAEU and Indonesia signed the Memorandum of Cooperation between the Eurasian Economic Commission and Indonesia on October 18, 2019 in Jakarta.

A significant progress was noted in relations between Belarus and Mongolia. The Mongolian side decided to establish the diplomatic mission in Minsk. The countries signed and ratified the General Agreement, which provides Mongolia with the loan for the supply of the Belarusian fire-engineering and agricultural equipment (April 22). Both sides are working on a project of the creation of the first milk cluster in Mongolia.

Relations with Bangladesh are steadily developing. Consultations between foreign ministries (December 10-12), the visit of the Bangladeshi Trade Minister to Belarus (April 23), and the first session of the Joint Belarusian-Bangladesh Commission on Trade and Economic Cooperation (April 23, Minsk) were held. 

Engagement with the Republic of Korea developed under the sign of innovative cooperation. National exposition of Belarus was organized at the Korean exhibition of automated production “Smart Factory + Automation World” (March 27 – 29, Seoul). The third session of the Joint Belarusian-Korean working group on scientific and technical cooperation took place and the sixth Belarusian-Korean scientific and technical forum “Science. Innovation. Production” was held in Minsk (April 9-10). The Belarusian side had the opportunity to study the Korean experience in digital economy formation by participating in the first pilot project “Digital Transformation of the National Economy of the Republic of Belarus” in the framework of the Korean Knowledge Sharing Program (KSP).

As part of development of cooperation with Iran, the Iranian business delegation visited Minsk (June 11-14). Consultations between foreign ministries were held in Teheran (July 10).

Dialogue with Japan continued to be enhanced. The President of the Republic of Belarus met Minister of Restoration Yoshimi Watanabe (June 30). There were visits of the Special Advisor to the Japanese Prime Minister Kentaro Sonoura to Belarus (June 22-23) and the Minister of Emergency Situations of Belarus Vladimir Vashchenko to Japan (December 14). For the first time in the history of bilateral relations, Japan appointed its Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to Belarus. A series of economic events were held: the second Belarusian-Japanese economic forum in Minsk (September 18), Belarusian business participation in multilateral economic meetings in the cities of Tokyo, Fukuoka, Hong Kong.

A regular meeting of the joint Committee on Trade and Economic cooperation in Cambodia (July 22-26) revealed new promising directions for the further development of bilateral relations.

8. The development of friendly and mutually beneficial relations between the Republic of Belarus and the countries of Africa and the Middle East was affected by the difficult regional situation, ongoing conflicts in Syria, Yemen, Libya, and political instability in a number of African and Middle Eastern countries, the tension in the Persian Gulf.

Systemic work on the development of relations with African countries continued, as well as the search for new “beachheads” on the African continent. The significant increase has been achieved in the total export of Belarusian products to Africa.

The work on the creation of the joint assembly production of the Minsk Automobile Plant equipment, and the organization of the first meeting of the intergovernmental commission to discuss joint projects in the industrial, agricultural, scientific, technical and educational spheres was carried out with Algeria.

The first official visit in the history of Belarusian-Egyptian relations to our country by President of Egypt Abdel Fattah el-Sisi (June 19) gave a new impetus to the development of bilateral cooperation. The practical implementation of a series of joint projects is carried out in Egypt. These projects cover the field of engineering, scientific and technical cooperation, as well as educational sphere.

Our relations with Zimbabwe were dramatically intensified as a result of the visit of President Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa to Belarus (January 17). The parties reached agreements on the implementation of major contracts and joint projects in Zimbabwe.

National Exposition of the Republic of Belarus and business forum took place in Kenya (August 1-3). The countries signed Agreements on the construction of reinforced concrete plant and a fish farm in Kenia, and agreements were reached on the supply of automotive machinery and equipment to Kenya, followed by the creation of an assembly production of Belarusian tractors.

Dialogue with the United Arab Emirates gained significant momentum. The first visit of Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Deputy Supreme Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the UAE, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan to Belarus (September 13) and the visit of the President of the Republic of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko to the UAE took place in November. During a year, the Head of Belarus held two meetings with the Vice President, Prime Minister and Minister of Defence of the UAE Sheikh M. bin Rashid al-Maktum (June 24).

For the first time, Belarusian culture Days were organized in the UAE (January 29-30). The Belarusian team successfully performed at the special Olympic Games in Abu Dhabi (March 26), and the high Emirati delegation visited the opening of the II European Games in Minsk (June 21-22). A bilateral agreement on mutual visa-free travel for citizens of Belarus and the UAE was signed (June 24).

Relations with Syria were developing in a traditionally friendly way. The reciprocal official visit to the Republic of Belarus of Deputy Prime Minister – Minister of Foreign Affairs and Emigrants of Syria Walid al Muallem (July 22), during which he met with the Belarusian Head of State, contributed to the development of political dialogue between the two countries, and allowed to identify priority areas of cooperation in the post-conflict reconstruction of Syria. Cooperation in humanitarian sphere continued, Belarus delivered the fourth cargo of humanitarian aid. Joint Belarusian-Syrian youth sports camps were organized for the first time on the basis of the Republican State School of the Olympic Reserve. About 450 Syrian children enjoyed their rest at Zubrenok National Children's Educational and Health Center.

Despite complicated internal political situation in the Sudan, cooperation on the implementation of joint projects with Khartoum is promoting. During the meeting of ministers of foreign affairs of Belarus and Sudan on the margins of the UN General Assembly (September 24), the two sides confirmed their willingness to develop cooperation at the previous pace and implement the agreements reached earlier.

9. The geography of relations with Latin American countries continued to expand, building a high-level political dialogue with our priority partners, as well as building economic cooperation with the region as a whole.

In December 2019, Belarus established diplomatic relations with the Commonwealth of the Bahamas and Barbados. As of that moment, the Republic of Belarus has diplomatic relations with all 33 states of Latin America and the Caribbean.

The impetus for further development of trade and economic cooperation with Argentina, Paraguay, and Chile was given during the visit of the Belarusian delegation to these countries, headed by Deputy Chairman of the Board of the National Bank of the Republic of Belarus (June 23-30).

On June 26-29, the National Exposition of the Republic of Belarus was presented for the first time in Argentina as part of the 25th international exhibition of agriculture and animal husbandry “Agroactive-2019”.

The search for ways to increase Belarusian exports to Brazil was aimed at strengthening cooperation between the regions of the two countries, holding the international business forum “Go Eurasian Markets”.

The visit of the official Belarusian delegation headed by Deputy Prime Minister of the Republic of Belarus Igor Lyashenko to Caracas (January 9-12) was intended to give an impetus to cooperation between Belarus and Venezuela. Belarus and Venezuela are pursuing constructive interaction on the platforms of international organizations.

Within the intensification of efforts to promote the Belarusian interests in the region of Latin America, Belarus established its Embassy in Colombia in 2019. 

The official visit of President of the Republic of Cuba Miguel Díaz-Canel to Belarus (October 22-24) confirmed the strategic nature of Belarusian-Cuban relations and allowed to identify steps for the further development of bilateral cooperation in trade, economic and other promising areas.

Visits of Minister of Science, Technology and Environment of Cuba Elba Perez Montoya to Belarus (June 25) and Minister of Industry of Belarus Pavel Utiupin to Havana (November 4) were held.
Prospects for expanding political, trade and economic cooperation between Belarus and Chile, both in bilateral format and through the EAEU – Pacific Alliance, were discussed during consultations between the Ministries of Foreign Affairs of the countries (September 3).

10. International conference “Countering terrorism through innovative approaches and the use of new and emerging technologies”, conducted by Belarus in cooperation with the United Nations, was a landmark event on the multilateral track (September 3-4, Minsk). The unique scope of the conference allowed OSCE participating states and ASEAN member states to come together in this format for the first time.

The relevance of Belarus’ initiative to improve coordination of international efforts to combat human trafficking was confirmed by the adoption by the UN General Assembly by consensus of the resolution “Improving coordination of efforts against trafficking in persons”, which was co-sponsored by 80 states. Consolidation of Belarus’ leading role in this sphere was strengthened by joining the UN’s multilateral information campaign Blue Heart, the funds of which are used to provide legal, financial and humanitarian assistance to victims of human trafficking. 

It is symbolic that Belarus supported that campaign during its presidency in the 28th session of the UN Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice. The holding at that session of special event on the role of technology in committing crimes related to trafficking for sexual exploitation, and combating this type of crime in development of Belarusian resolution adopted in 2018 indicates the consistent efforts of Belarus in this direction.

A significant contribution of our country to the cooperation within the UN on crime prevention issues was the adoption by consensus of the resolution “Strengthening the engagement of all members of society in crime prevention” initiated by Belarus at the 28th session of the UN Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice.

Targeted work on international obligations of Belarus in the field of human rights was carried out, including the preparation of national reports in accordance with international treaties, holding of joint events with international and national partners, engagement of international expert assistance and the ensuring of bilateral human rights dialogues with interested states.

With a regard to the 30th anniversary of adoption of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, special events were held at both national and international levels. Belarus shared its experience in developing the child-friendly city initiative within the 40th session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.

Deputy Secretary-General, Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund Natalia Kanem paid the first visit to Belarus (December 6-9).

Our country continued to promote the UN peacekeeping agenda. Prerequisites were created to expand the geography and quantitative contribution of Belarus to the UN peacekeeping operations. 

Belarusian membership in the UNESCO Executive Council contributed to the intensification of cooperation with the Organization. Two deputy general directors and the coordinator of the National Commissions for UNESCO paid visits to our country. 

Belarusian initiatives related to the development of cooperation on the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals, strengthening the capacity of national commissions for UNESCO, the role of translation as a mechanism for bringing nations closer, promoting sports in the context of the II European Games were taken into account in the programme documents of the Organization. The UNESCO approved the Belarusian proposals on the List of Memorable Dates, as well as national applications within the framework of the Participation Program.

Under the sign of the 65th anniversary of Belarusian membership in UNESCO, different events were taken place both in Belarus and abroad. The 200th anniversary of Stanislaw Moniuszko’s birthday (the anniversary is included in UNESCO’s List of Memorable Dates) was widely celebrated. A number of significant projects in the field of culture, science, education and promotion of the healthy lifestyle were held.

The result of the work on expanding the Belarusian presence in the UNESCO lists was the inclusion of the element “Spring rite Yuryevsky Horovod” in the list of intangible heritage of UNESCO.

Belarus continued to responsibly fulfil its obligations on the implementation of the Sustainable Development Agenda up to 2030 and the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The key thematic event in 2019 was the first National Forum on Sustainable Development (January 24), where Belarus carried out an interim review of the SDGs at all three levels (international, regional, national) in accordance with the Agenda-2030.

In 2019, the Republic of Belarus was elected chair of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe for 2019–2021 and for the first time headed the main executive body of the regional economic organization of the UN system. During this period, Permanent Representative of Belarus to international organizations in Geneva Yury Ambrazevich leads the Executive Committee of the Commission.

Alena Kupchyna, Permanent Representative of Belarus to international organizations in Vienna, was for the first time elected chair of the 28th session of the UN Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice (CCPCJ) – the central body of the UN system responsible for formulating international approaches in the field of crime prevention and criminal justice in areas such as combating transnational organized crime, corruption, and human trafficking. The representative of Belarus was elected to lead CCPCJ for the first time. 

Work was continued with like-minded states to uphold the interests of middle-income countries in the context of sustainable development. The United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) adopted the Belarus-initiated strategic partnership framework with middle-income countries. During this session, Belarus was re-elected to the UNIDO Industrial Development Council for a new term. 

A significant event for Belarus was the adoption by consensus at the UN General Assembly of the Belarusian resolution “Long-term consequences of the Chernobyl disaster”.

Close cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) was strengthened. In preparation for the commissioning of the Belarusian nuclear power plant, two Agency missions were successfully carried out: on the state system of accounting and control of nuclear materials (ISSAS) and on the analysis of the operational safety of the nuclear power plant to assess its readiness for commissioning (pre-OSART). IAEA expert and Advisory assistance was actively provided, including technical cooperation projects. This interaction will be continued in the framework of the updated IAEA technical cooperation program for 2020-2021.

In the context of implementation of a consistent policy on disarmament and arms control, Belarus continued to actively defend its national interests at the multilateral platforms of the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva, the First Committee of the UN General Assembly in New York, and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons in the Hague, as well as within the framework of the military-political dimension of the OSCE in Vienna.

Actively participating in the meetings of the Coordination Bureau and the events of the XVIII Summit of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) (October 25-26, Baku), Belarus has made consistent efforts to strengthen the authority of this international association. Particular emphasis was placed on the formation of a NAM common vision on such issues as sustainable development, support for middle-income countries, combating human trafficking, support for the natural family, disarmament and international security. An important aspect of the work of Belarus in NAM was its contribution to reaching a compromise between the NAM participating states on controversial issues and formulating a balanced position of the Movement on current issues of the international agenda.

Systematic work continued to maintain constructive interaction with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), its executive structures and institutions, and the Slovak Chairmanship in the Organization. 

An international conference of the Silk Road Support Group of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly (PA) was held in Minsk (April), which resulted in the adoption of Minsk Declaration. 

At the invitation of the Belarusian side, missions of the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) and the OSCE PA took part in international monitoring of the parliamentary elections in the Republic of Belarus. 

To develop a pragmatic interaction with key bodies of the organization, representative for media freedom Mr. Desir (March 14), Chairman of the OSCE PA George Tsereteli (April 29), OSCE Secretary General Thomas Greminger (September 3-4), Deputy Chairman of the OSCE PA, thespecial coordinator/head of the OSCE short-term observer Mission for the parliamentary elections Mr. Sederfelt (November) paid visit to Belarus.

Minister of Foreign Affairs of Belarus attended the 26th annual meeting of the OSCE Ministerial Council in Bratislava (December 4-5).

Belarus developed direct project cooperation with the OSCE executive structures in all security dimensions, and work has been carried out to agree on the third “package” of joint projects.

Active project interaction was carried out with the Council of Europe (CE), including the CE Action Plan for Belarus for 2019-2021. Work continued on the accession of our country to the legal instruments and mechanisms of the Council of Europe. In June, Belarus joined the Council of Europe Convention on the Counterfeiting of Medical Products and Similar Crimes involving Threats to Public Health (MEDICRIME).

Positive dynamics of the dialogue between the National Assembly of the Republic of Belarus and the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe continued. Belarusian Head of State met with President of the Congress Anders Knape (Austria) on April 29. As a result of the meeting, an agreement was reached to use expert potential of the Council of Europe to improve national legislation in the field of local self-government.

Dialogue with Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) continued. PACE mission took part in monitoring of the parliamentary elections in Belarus. 

Belarus took an active part in the activities of the Collective Security Treaty Organization, aimed at enhancing the credibility of the organization and strengthening cooperation with other international and regional structures, strengthening the CSTO’s defense potential, and developing military-technical cooperation. Cooperation between the CSTO member States has been steadily developing in the areas of anti-crisis response, countering terrorist threats, illegal drug trafficking, irregular migration, and preventing the use of information and communication technologies for extremist purposes.

On January 1, 2020, a representative of Belarus Stanislav Zas became Secretary General of the CSTO. 

11. The key focus of the Foreign Ministry’s work remains “economic diplomacy”. In 2019, Belarusian products were delivered to the markets of 177 countries. Exports of goods amounted to $ 32.94 billion, which is 2.9 percent less than in 2018.

Excluding oil products, exports amounted to $ 26.4 billion, which is 4.3 percent more than in 2018. In value terms, export growth amounted to $ 1.1 billion.

As part of the Foreign Ministry's efforts to achieve the goal of equal distribution of export supplies between the three markets – the EAEU, the EU and the “far arc” regions, the most important task was to build up the bilateral track of interaction with the States of Asia, the Middle East, Africa, and Latin America, opening new markets and consolidating in existing ones.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs coordinated the implementation of the “roadmap” of the National Program for Support and Development of Export of the Republic of Belarus for 2016-2020, as well as plans for joint actions with industries and regions on the development of trade and economic cooperation with foreign countries, the development of the distribution network of exporters abroad.

Preparation and holding of sessions of the Interdepartmental Council on Foreign Trade Policy, the Council of Exporters under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Organizing Committee for the preparation of the National Exposition of the Republic of Belarus at the World Exhibition EXPO 2020 in Dubai were conducted.

As part of the work to improve the system of state support for exporters, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued Decree No. 412 of the President of the Republic of Belarus dated November 14, 2019 “on export support”, which provides for reimbursement to exporters of part of the costs of participating in international specialized exhibitions and conducting conformity assessment of products in foreign countries.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs along with the National Center for Marketing and Price Studies paid special attention to the work on export information support. By the end of 2019 5,394 Belarusian and 542 foreign enterprises are registered on the website for exporters, and the information about 18,052 goods and services is provided. 

During 2019, the Belarusian manufacturers and industry ministries have been working to adjust the rates of import customs duties of the Common Customs Tariff of the EAEU, to provide tariff benefits, to apply non-tariff regulation measures taking into account national interests, and to prevent and minimize the consequences of the introduction by third countries of measures to protect the market for Belarusian products.

As part of the work within the Eurasian Economic Commission, decisions were made to establish on a temporary basis zero rates of import customs duties for certain types of raw materials and components used by domestic enterprises in the fields of mechanical engineering, agricultural, food, confectionery, chemical and clothing industries for the production of finished products.

A number of initiative proposals have been developed and submitted for consideration by the EAEU member states in the Eurasian Economic Commission (EEC), suggesting adjustment of import customs duties on certain types of goods taking into account the interests of Belarusian industries.

Decisions adopted by the Eurasian Economic Commission in 2019 on setting tariff quotas for the import of pork, poultry, and certain types of rice originating from Vietnam to the Republic of Belarus will fully meet the country’s demand for these types of goods and load processing facilities with raw meat. 

In order to simplify foreign trade procedures, coordination of the work of the state administration bodies and interaction with the EEC on the implementation of the “Single Window” mechanism in the system of regulating foreign economic activity on the territory of the EAEU was continued.

According to the results of protective investigations conducted by third countries in relation to the Belarusian goods, it was possible to agree with the Ukrainian side on the adoption of voluntary price obligations for JSC “Mozyrsol”, as well as decisions on non-extension of anti-dumping measures in respect of fiberboard slabs and non-application of anti-dumping duties in respect of carbon and alloy steel bars.

Following the results of a special protective investigation conducted by the European Union in relation to a wide list of metal products, a country quota was allocated for the Republic of Belarus for five main categories of metal products supplied to the EU, which fully preserved the possibility of supplying Belarusian products to the European market.

In 2019, two rounds of sectoral dialogue on trade were held between the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Belarus and the Directorate General of the European Commission for Trade.

Throughout the year, activities of working groups were coordinated to address unresolved issues of access of goods, labor force and services to the markets of Belarus and Russia. A meeting of the working group assigned to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in direction of “mutual trade and public procurement” was held. The issues of limiting the participation of Belarusian manufacturers in open auctions for procurement for state and municipal needs in the Russian Federation were resolved, the decision was made to develop draft Agreement on mutual recognition of bank guarantees in public procurement, and the Belarusian side supported the proposal to create an expert subgroup to form a single list of banks in Belarus and Russia within the framework of the implementation of the Bank guarantee mechanism.

Since the intensification of work on the WTO track in 2016, we have managed to get closer to the final stage of negotiations. Preparations have begun for the consideration in 2020 of the fifth edition of the draft Report of the WTO Working Party on Accession of Belarus (the final document defining the conditions for the country’s membership in the Organization). Work has started on the final alignment of Belarus’ commitments in the WTO. 

During the period from 2016 to 2019, bilateral negotiations on market access with 11 WTO members were completed. Thus, the total number of bilateral protocols for the entire period of negotiations has reached 21. Intensive negotiations continue with Brazil, the EU, Canada, Costa Rica, the United States, and Ukraine.

12. In 2019, 88 bilateral international agreements were signed: with the CIS countries – 29, with the Asian States – 25, Europe – 14, Africa – 6, North America – 5 and South America – 1; with international organizations – 8 credit and financial agreements. 

Within the framework of various international organizations and integration entities, 30 multilateral international treaties in various fields of cooperation have been concluded.  

Together with the Council of Europe, the third conference on the conclusion, implementation and interpretation of international treaties was held in Minsk (September 19-20). 

Together with the WTO Secretariat and the UNDP office in Belarus, a national seminar on Dispute Settlement Mechanism within the World Trade Organization was organized in Minsk (November 27-28).

Three meetings of the Scientific Advisory Council on international law were held at the Ministry of foreign Affairs (March, June, September).

Visit of Director General of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) Francis Garry to the Republic of Belarus was organized (June 3-5), and Memorandum of Understanding was signed between the Government of Belarus and WIPO. 

13. Development of bilateral legal framework on visa issues was intensive.

Decree of the President of the Republic of Belarus dated August 7, 2019 No. 300 “On Establishment of visa-free Procedure for Entry and Exit of Foreign Citizens” was adopted. It established new approaches to the normative regulation of visa-free procedure for entry and exit of foreign citizens in the territory of Brest and Grodno regions. For citizens of 73 states, Decree No. 300 provides an increase in the period of visa-free stay up to 15 days for tourism purposes.

As part of the implementation of the course for further liberalization of the visa regime, work was carried out to amend the Decree of the President of the Republic of Belarus No. 8 on Establishment visa-free Procedure for Entry and Exit of Citizens and persons with other legal status through international checkpoints.

Draft Decrees of the President of the Republic of Belarus on the introduction of a visa-free regime during the preparation and holding of the World Ice Hockey Championship in Minsk in 2021, the World Chess Olympiad in 2022 and other related sports events (2020-2022) were approved.

The work on approval of draft agreements on visa facilitation and readmission with the European side was completed.

International agreements were concluded to amend visa-free travel agreements with the United Arab Emirates regarding visa-free travel on General civil passports and the Hong Kong Special administrative region of the People's Republic of China to extend the period of visa-free stay. The Belarusian side completed domestic procedures for the ratification of both agreements.

An agreement was signed with Albania on visa-free travel of citizens on all types of passports.

The Agreement with Colombia on the mutual cancellation of visas for holders of diplomatic, official and service passports has been ratified by both parties. Its entry into force is expected in the near future.

Agreements on visa-free travel of citizens for all types of passports with Colombia, Uruguay, and diplomatic and service passports with the Philippines were prepared for signing.

In 2019, agreements entered into force and amendments were made to previously concluded agreements on visa-free travel for all types of passports with Georgia, Saint Kitts and Nevis, on amendments to the agreement on mutual travel of citizens with Montenegro regarding the cancellation of documents confirming the purpose of the trip, on diplomatic and service passports with Algeria, on certain issues related to the entry of foreign citizens and stateless persons to international sports events with Russia.

Work continued on draft international agreements regulating visa-free travel on diplomatic, service or official passports with Angola, Bahrain, Kenya, Mozambique, Nepal, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and national passports with Grenada, the Republic of Korea, Macedonia, Malaysia, Oman, Peru, the Seychelles, and Singapore.

Consultations on consular issues with foreign ministries of Hungary, Georgia, Spain, Cyprus, Latvia, Lithuania, Liechtenstein, the United Arab Emirates, Poland, Russia, Turkmenistan, Turkey, the Czech Republic and Switzerland were held. 

Significant attention was accorded to the protection of rights and interests of legal entities and individuals of the Republic of Belarus abroad, consideration of citizens’ addresses and rendering assistance to persons in emergency situations. 

Legal assistance was provided to persons detained by law enforcement authorities of foreign countries, serving their sentences in prisons abroad; assistance was provided to evacuate Belarusian citizens from zones of armed conflict and to relatives of Belarusian citizens who died abroad in transporting bodies to their homeland for burial. 

This year, over 3000 Belarusian citizens applied to Belarusian foreign institutions for various types of legal assistance. 

14. Interaction with Belarusians abroad further developed. In 2019, the fifth meeting of the Advisory Council for Belarusians Abroad was held, during which the results were summed up and joint steps were agreed to develop the partnership between the state and diaspora. Eight foreign members of the Council were awarded the jubilee medal “100 years of the diplomatic service of Belarus” for their significant contribution to strengthening the image of our country abroad.

The focus was on joint projects to promote Belarusian culture and history abroad, and return the cultural heritage to Belarus. 

15. In 2019, comprehensive information support of major international events in the Republic of Belarus was among the priorities of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. 

The qualitative and quantitative components of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ interaction with representatives of the media community were expanded. A number of significant media events and initiatives were implemented for the first time. The intensity of communication between the Minister, leadership and representatives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs with influential foreign media increased. 

The number of subscribers to the Ministry social media accounts continued to grow steadily. 

A number of press tours for foreign journalists, including those from China and Russia, were organized in cooperation with interested parties. 

In 2019, more than 220 representatives of foreign mass media agencies received permanent accreditation to work in our country, and over 800 received temporary accreditation.

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