By Dr. Stanislav Vassilevsky, Chargé d’Affaires a.i. of the Republic of Belarus in the Kingdom of the Netherlands.
Belarusian-Dutch bilateral political dialogue in recent years has become more active and promising, since a higher level of contact reflects a strong common interest and a broader agenda. We have held two informative sessions of political consultations at the level of Deputy Foreign Ministers and organized the first ever visit of the Dutch parliamentarians to Belarus in 2019 communicating regularly at the multilateral fora. Recent developments have created a favorable background for further intensification of contacts.
We welcome the positive trend in our bilateral trade and investment cooperation and strive to raise the awareness of the Dutch business community about investment opportunities in Belarus. A number of joint projects have been already implemented, such as in beer (Heineken), lamp (Philips) or robotic milking systems production (Lely Industries), while other FDI projects are being presently considered. The priority areas are logistics, agriculture, IT, energy, petrochemistry, pharmaceuticals, etc. It is especially relevant given the favorable geographical position and membership of the country in the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU), a spacious growing market of 180 mln. people, where Belarus presides in 2020 – 2023.
Apart from geographical position, other benefits of entering Belarus include unique privatization opportunities, attractive taxation environment, well-developed logistics infrastructure and highly qualified workforce. Recently, to facilitate communication, we introduced a 30-day visa-free regime for the Dutch and other citizens of 80 countries arriving in Belarus through the international airport of Minsk.
We regard the Eastern Partnership (EaP), a joint policy initiative of the EU and six Eastern European post-Soviet states, as a tool for pragmatic cooperation building bridges and developing interpersonal contacts.
Belarus has developed its own vision of the improvements that need to be made to the EaP and which, in our opinion, would be in the interests of the Netherlands and all EU partners. We pay special attention to the economic sector. Both Belarus and partners are particularly interested in comprehensive cooperation in trade including certification of exporting enterprises, standardization, metrology, harmonization and mutual recognition of compliance systems, as well as in simplification of trade procedures like sanitary and phytosanitary regulations in agricultural production.
It is time to think about a comprehensive approach to border improvement, taking into account the security and mobility of people and goods, including the further modernization of customs checkpoints and information exchange between the customs services. We believe that both sides would benefit from closer cooperation in customs administration and easier terms of cargo transportation and control.
We suggest making technological innovations a priority in cooperation. To this end, Minsk is ready to host an Eastern Partnership IT School to train digital sector specialists for all its partners.
Obviously, transport and energy infrastructure is vitally important for both the EU and its partners. The focus should be made on the development of international digital transport corridors. We hope that a similar action plan will be soon developed to invest in energy inter-connectors in the EU. It is also of particular importance to bring into line transportation networks of the EAEU, the EU and the Belt and Road project initiated by China.
Belarus is in favor of establishing a permanent format of dialogue between the EU and the EAEU. We oppose any new dividing lines in Europe. The idea of cooperation of integrations is about making the EU – EAEU cooperation a systemic process aimed at achieving meaningful and appreciable results for both unions. Such a rapprochement will help build trust and dismantle the myth about incompatibility and rivalry of the eastern and western systems. Let`s share a common vision of the future of Eurasia as a single space of peace, cooperation and interaction, realizing a free, fair, non-discriminatory, transparent and predictable trade and investment environment.
Belarus is a member of the EaP initiative that also comprises another EAEU participating state, Armenia, and also a EAEU observer state, Moldova. Therefore, Belarus suggests using the EaP format for looking for solutions to the most burning issues at the junction of the two unions and cooperation forms. These tasks will be high on the agenda of Belarus’ chairmanship in the EAEU.
We are very interested in promoting the new and positive agenda for international relations in Belarus and invite you to Minsk.