By H.E. Mr Mikalai Barysevich, Ambassador of the Republic of Belarus to the Kingdom of the Netherlands.
This year Belarus and the Netherlands mark the 25th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations on 24th March 1992.
A quarter of a century might not be a long time from a historic perspective but over these years Belarus and the Netherlands have worked very intensively to form the necessary legal base of bilateral relations and to develop a productive bilateral dialogue in the spheres of common interest.
I will mention just a few events that have shaped Belarusian-Dutch relations over this period.
On July 6, 1993 the Consulate General of the Republic of Belarus was opened in The Hague which became the full-fledged Embassy on March 20, 1996.
In 2000 the twin-town links were established between Brest and Coevorden and until present they play an important role and are highly estimated in both cities.
Three Honorary Consuls of Belarus in the Netherlands who are the Dutch nationals residing in Hoogeveen (since 2002), Amsterdam (since 2003) and Eindhoven (since 2008) perform their duties while Honorary Consul of the Netherlands has been working in Minsk since 1996.
Opening in 2009 of the direct joint flight Minsk-Amsterdam by the Belarusian National aviation company “Belavia” and Dutch KLM has led to the increase of the number of people who visit both countries with business, cultural, tourist and private purposes.
Belarus welcomed a decision of the Dutch Government taken in May of 2015 to establish a diplomatic mission in Minsk. We do hope that the Dutch permanent representation in Minsk will contribute a lot to further intensification of the political dialogue and better understanding of the processes that presently are taking place in Belarus.
Trade and economic relations continue to be the most active area of our bilateral cooperation. Both countries pursue a pragmatic approach towards the development of trade and economic relations. The Netherlands are traditionally among top-10 trade and investment partners of Belarus. The historic record in terms of trade was fixed in 2012 when the bilateral turnover reached 8 bln US Dollars and the Netherlands became the second major trading partner of Belarus after the Russian Federation.
In 2015 the Netherlands became the third largest investor to Belarus following the Russian Federation and the UK. In 2016 the Netherlands took the third position in terms of foreign direct investments (FDi) to Belarus following the Russian Federation and Cyprus. The Belarusian-Dutch economic relations lie on formidable legislation, such as agreements on facilitation and protection of investments, on avoiding double taxation, on air communications and on international automobile communications.
As one looks to the future of the economic cooperation, there are many encouraging signs, notably in the areas of agriculture, logistics, energy and high technologies. There are also good prospects for joint investment projects. All of these will contribute to Belarus-the Netherlands relations in the coming years.
Fruitful and active cooperation in the spheres of culture, sports and tourism help to broaden the ties between the peoples of Belarus and the Netherlands, to learn more about the cultural heritage and sports potential of the two countries and to get acquainted with their tourist opportunities eventually strengthening mutual understanding.
This anniversary is also a good occasion to express our sincere gratitude to the Dutch charity NGOs which over 20 years have been rendering assistance to Belarusian children from the regions affected by the catastrophe at the Chernobyl nuclear power station. The hospitality of the Dutch families who receive Belarusian kids in the Netherlands is also highly appreciated. Last year around one thousand children as small “ambassadors” of Belarus visited the Netherlands for recreational purposes. For the active work the head of “SRK” charity organization Mr Klaas Koops who is Honorary Consul of Belarus in Hoogeveen in 2006 was decorated with the Order of Francisk Skoryna, the highest Belarusian national decoration that can be given to a foreigner.
All these developments give us grounds for an optimistic approach towards expanding and further development of fruitful bilateral relations between Belarus and the Netherlands in the years to come.
Photography by the Embassy of the Republic of Belarus in the Netherlands.