Foreign relations of Belarus

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This article is part of a series on the
politics and government of
Belarus

The Byelorussian SSR was one of only two Soviet republics to be separate members of the United Nations (the other being the Ukrainian SSR). Both republics and the Soviet Union joined the UN when the organization was founded in 1945.

Prior to 2001[edit]

After the dissolution of the Soviet Union, at which time Belarus gained its independence, Belarus became a member of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), NATO's Partnership for Peace, the North Atlantic Cooperation Council, the International Monetary Fund, and the World Bank. It has also been in a supranational union with Russia since 2 April 1996, although this has had little practical effect.

Belarus–Russia relations[edit]

The introduction of free trade between Russia and Belarus in mid-1995 led to a spectacular growth in bilateral trade, which was only temporarily reversed in the wake of the financial crisis of 1998. President Alexander Lukashenko sought to develop a closer relationship with Russia. The framework for the Union of Russia and Belarus was set out in the Treaty On the Formation of a Community of Russia and Belarus (1996), the Treaty on Russia-Belarus Union, the Union Charter (1997), and the Treaty of the Formation of a Union State (1999). The integration treaties contained commitments to monetary union, equal rights, single citizenship, and a common defence and foreign policy.

Embassy of Belarus in Washington, D.C.

Belarus–European Union relations[edit]

Following the recognition of Belarus as an independent state in December 1991 by the European Community, EC/EU-Belarus relations initially experienced a steady progress. The signature of the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA) in 1995 signaled a commitment to political, economic and trade cooperation. Some assistance was provided to Belarus within the framework of the TACIS programme and also through various aid programs and loans. However, progress in EU-Belarus relations stalled in 1996 after serious setbacks to the development of democracy, and the Drazdy conflict. The EU did not recognize the 1996 constitution, which replaced the 1994 constitution. The Council of the European Union decided against Belarus in 1997: The PCA was not concluded, nor was its trade-related part; Belarusian membership in the Council of Europe was not supported; bilateral relations at the ministerial level were suspended and EU technical assistance programs were frozen. Acknowledging the lack of progress in relation to bilateral relations and the internal situation following the position adopted in 1997, the EU adopted a step-by-step approach in 1999, whereby sanctions would be gradually lifted upon fulfillment of the four benchmarks set by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe. In 2000, some moderately positive developments toward the implementation of recommendations made by the OSCE AMG were observed but were not sufficient in the realm of access to fair and free elections.

Belarus–United States relations[edit]

The United States has encouraged Belarus to conclude and adhere to agreements with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on the program of macroeconomic stabilization and related reform measures, as well as to undertake increased privatization and to create a favorable climate for business and investment. Although there has been some American direct private investment in Belarus, its development has been relatively slow given the uncertain pace of reform. An Overseas Private Investment Corporation agreement was signed in June 1992 but has been suspended since 1995 because Belarus did not fulfill its obligations under the agreement. Belarus is eligible for Export-Import Bank short-term financing insurance for U.S. investments, but because of the adverse business climate, no projects have been initiated. The IMF granted standby credit in September 1995, but Belarus has fallen off the program and did not receive the second tranche of funding, which had been scheduled for regular intervals throughout 1996.

The United States - along with the European Union - has restricted the travel of President Alexander Lukashenko and members of his inner circle, as well as imposing economic sanctions.[citation needed]

Present situation (2001 onwards)[edit]

Belarus-Russia relations[edit]

Russia remains the largest and most important partner for Belarus both in the political and economic fields. After protracted disputes and setbacks, the two countries' customs duties were unified in March 2001 but the customs controls were soon restored. In terms of trade, almost half of Belarusian export goes to Russia. Due to the structure of Belarusian industry, Belarus relies heavily on Russia both for export markets and for the supply of raw materials and components. After initial negotiation with the Russian Central Bank on monetary union, the Russian ruble was set to be introduced in Belarus in 2004, but this was postponed first until 2005, then until 2006, and now seems to have been suspended indefinitely.

Belarus-European Union relations[edit]

The structure of Belarus trade reflects the low competitiveness and output decline of manufacturing industry in the country over the past decade, leading to the predominance of primary production, work-intensive goods as exports. Belarusian exports to the EU consist mainly of agricultural and textile products, while imports from the EU are primarily machinery.

Belarus is a beneficiary of the EU's Generalised System of Preferences (GSP). The European Commission decided in 2003 to initiate an investigation into violations of freedom of association in Belarus as the first step towards a possible temporary withdrawal of the GSP from Belarus.

Rally in the center of Minsk to support closer ties with the European Union, 2007

In December 2004, the EU adopted a position aimed at imposing travel restrictions on officials from Belarus responsible for the fraudulent parliamentary elections and referendum on 17 October 2004, and for human rights violations during subsequent peaceful political demonstrations in Minsk. The European Parliament released a statement in March 2005 in which it denounced the Belarusian government as a dictatorship. The European parliamentarians were primarily concerned about the suppression of independent media outlets in the country and the fraudulent referendum. A resolution of the European Parliament declared that the personal bank accounts of President Lukashenko and other high-ranking Belarusian officials should be tracked and frozen.

In 2005, Amnesty International reported a pattern of deliberate obstruction, harassment and intimidation of human rights defenders in Belarus. Reporters Without Borders accused the Belarusian authorities of hounding and arresting journalists from the country's Polish minority. Lukashenko has closed the country's main Polish newspaper, printing a bogus paper instead with the same name and size that praises his incumbent government. Several foreign, mainly Polish, journalists have been arrested or expelled from the country. Lukashenko accused Poland of an attempt to overthrow his government by stirring up a peaceful revolution in Belarus comparable to the Orange Revolution in Ukraine in 2004.

Later in 2005 the Belarusian riot police seized the headquarters of the Union of Poles in Belarus, an association representing the 400,000 ethnic minority Polish living in western areas the country that were part of Poland until World War II. The dispute between Poland and Belarus escalated further as Poland responded by recalling its ambassador from Belarus for indefinite consultations, and called on the European Union to impose sanctions on the Belarusian leadership in order to curtail the human rights abuses in Belarus. Belarusian papers described this as a 'dirty political game', and part of a 'cold war' waged on president Lukashenko. Polish Foreign Minister Adam Rotfeld said a clampdown was under way, aimed at destroying "all elements of political pluralism and independence" in Belarus.

Members of the Eastern Partnership (2009)

In August 2005 the EU's executive commission called for human rights to be respected in Belarus. The commission said it was considering offering support to independent media in the country and had set aside more than eight million euros from its budget to offer support for human rights activities. France expressed her solidarity with Poland on the issue of human rights in Belarus a day after the EU declared it was worried about the situation in that country. Several former Soviet Republics, including neighbouring Ukraine, also expressed their concerns about the development of the situation in Belarus.

In May 2009 Belarus and the EU agree on cooperation in the Eastern Partnership (EaP). However, it is contended by some scholars that the (EaP) is unable to create a workable partnership.[1] This proved to be correct when Belarus withdrew form the Partnership on 30 September 2011.[2]

In August 2012, Belarus expelled all Swedish diplomats, including the Swedish Ambassador to Belarus, Stefan Eriksson, and closed its embassy in Stockholm, after a Swedish public relations firm released teddy bears carrying pro-democracy flyers in parachutes from an airplane over Minsk on 4 July 2012. Lukashenko also fired his air defence chief and the head of the border guards over the incident. Their replacements have been told not to hesitate to use force to stop future intrusions from abroad.[3]

Belarus-United States relations[edit]

Belarus has had an ongoing discussion to relaunch IMF-backed reforms, concluding an arrangement for an IMF Staff-monitored program (SMP) in 2001. However, the authorities did not follow through with reforms as hoped, leaving an uncertain future for IMF-backed cooperation. Belarus authorities have said on several occasions that they find IMF intervention and recommendations in Belarus counter-productive to the economic development of those countries. The relationships with the United States have been further strained, after Congress of the United States unanimously passed the Belarus Democracy Act of 2004.

On 7 March 2008 the government of Belarus ejected US Ambassador Karen B. Stewart from the country, following a row over travel restrictions placed on President Lukashenko and sanctions against state-owned chemical company Belneftekhim. The Belarusian Foreign Ministry announced at the same time that it was recalling its own ambassador to the US. This was followed by the expulsion of ten other U.S. embassy staff from Minsk in late April. At the same time the government of Belarus ordered the U.S. Embassy in Minsk to cut its staff by half.[4][5][6][7] A White House spokesman described the expulsion as "deeply disappointing".

Relations with third countries[edit]

Due to strained relations with the United States and the European Union, as well as occasional high-level disputes with Russia over prices on core imported natural resources such as oil and gas, Belarus aims to develop better relations with countries in other regions like Middle East, Asia, and Latin America.[8]

Relations by country[edit]

Country Formal relations began Notes
 Armenia 1992
  • Before 1991, both countries were part of the USSR, and before then part of the Russian Empire.
  • Armenia has an embassy in Minsk.
  • Belarus has an embassy in Yerevan.[9]
  • There are around 25,000 people of Armenian descent living in Belarus.
 Austria 1992
 Azerbaijan 1992 See Azerbaijan–Belarus relations
 Bulgaria 1992-03-26
 Canada 1992
 Croatia 1992-09-25
  • Croatia is represented in Belarus through its embassy in Moscow (Russia).
  • Belarus does not have any representation in Croatia.
  • Croatian Foreign Minister Tonino Picula on 24 June 2000 attended a summit of the Central European Initiative in Segedin, Hungary, and held bilateral talks with his counterpart from Belarus.[16]
  • At least three bilateral agreements have been signed between the two counties.[17]
    • 2001 Reciprocal Promotion and Protection of Investments
    • 2004 Avoidance of double taxation and the prevention of fiscal evasion with respect to taxes on income and on capital
    • 2005 International Road Transport
  • Croatian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and European Integration: list of bilateral treaties with Belarus
 Cyprus 1991
 Czech Republic 1993
 Denmark See Belarus–Denmark relations
 Estonia 1992-04-06
  • Belarus has a Consulate General in Tallinn.[20]
  • Estonia opened its embassy in Minsk on 20 October 2009.[21]
 Finland 1992-02-26
  • Finland recognised the independence of Belarus on 30 December 1991.
  • Finland is represented in Belarus through its embassy in Vilnius, Lithuania.[22]
  • Belarus is represented in Finland through its embassy in Vilnius, Lithuania.
 France 1991
 Georgia 1992
 Germany 1923
 Greece See Foreign relations of Greece
 Hungary 1991
 India 1992-04-17
  • Belarus has an embassy in New Delhi.[31]
  • Since 14 May 1992, India has an embassy in Minsk.[32]
 Iran 1992 See Belarus–Iran relations
  • Belarus has an embassy in Tehran.
  • Iran has an embassy in Minsk.
  • The two countries have enjoyed good relations in recent years reflected in regular high level meetings and various agreements. In 2008, Belarusian Foreign Minister Sergei Martynov described Iran as an important partner of his country in the region and the world.[33]
 Ireland 1992
  • Belarus is represented in Ireland through its embassy in London (United Kingdom).[34]
  • Ireland is represented in Belarus through its embassy in Moscow (Russia).[35]
 Israel 1992
 Italy 1992-04-13
  • Belarus has an embassy in Rome and 2 honorary consulates (in Naples and Turin).[38]
  • Italy has an embassy in Minsk.[39]
 Japan 1992-01-16
  • Belarus has an embassy in Tokyo.[40]
  • Japan has an embassy in Minsk.[41]
 Kazakhstan 1992-09-16
 Kyrgyzstan 1992
 Latvia
  • Belarus has an embassy in Riga and a general consulate in Daugavpils.[46]
  • Latvia has an embassy in Minsk and a consulate in Vitebsk.[47]
  • The countries share 171 km of common border.
 Libya 1992
 Lithuania 1991-10-24
 Malaysia 1992-03-05 See Belarus–Malaysia relations
 Malta 1991
  • Belarus is represented in Malta through its embassy in Rome (Italy).[52]
  • Malta is represented in Belarus through its embassy in Moscow (Russia).[53]
 Moldova See Belarus–Moldova relations
 Netherlands 1994 See Belarus–Netherlands relations
 People's Republic of China 1992
  • Belarus has an embassy in Beijing.[56]
  • China has an embassy in Minsk.[57]
 Pakistan
 Poland 1992-03-02 See Poland–Belarus relations
 Romania
 Russia See Belarus–Russia relations
  • Russia remains the largest and most important partner for Belarus both in the political and economic fields.
 Serbia 1994-11-15 See Belarus–Serbia relations
  • Serbia recognised Belarus in December 1991 and both countries established diplomatic relations in November 1994 and at the ambassadorial level in 1996.
  • Belarus has an embassy in Belgrade.
  • Serbia has an embassy in Minsk.
 Slovakia 1993
 South Korea 1992-02-10
 Spain 1992-02-13
 Sweden 1992
  Switzerland
 Syria 1992
  • Belarus has an embassy in Damascus.[71]
  • Syria has an embassy in Minsk.
 Turkey 1992-05-25
 Turkmenistan 1992
  • Belarus has an embassy in Ashgabat.[72]
  • Turkmenistan has an embassy in Minsk.
 Ukraine See Belarus–Ukraine relations
 United Kingdom 1991
 United States 1991 See Belarus – United States relations

Interstate relations between the United States and Belarus began in 1991 upon the dissolution of the Soviet Union, of which Belarus had been a part. However, the relations have turned sour due to accusations by the United States that Belarus has been undemocratic. Belarus, in turn, has accused the United States of interfering in its internal affairs.

 Uzbekistan 1992

See also[edit]

External links[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Elena Korosteleva, “The Limits of the EU Governance: Belarus ' Response to the European Neighbourhood Policy”, Contemporary Politics, Vol. 15(2), June 2009, pp. 229–45
  2. ^ Belarus quits EU's Eastern Partnership initiative, Eur Activ, 2011-10-30
  3. ^ Belarus-Sweden teddy bear row escalates, BBC News, 2012-08-08
  4. ^ "Belarus expels US diplomats". Al Jazeera. 1 May 2008. Retrieved 2009-01-02. 
  5. ^ Michael Schwartz (25 March 2008). "Belarus: U.S. Cuts Embassy Staff". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-01-02. 
  6. ^ Andrei Makhovsky (13 March 2008). "U.S. Ambassador Leaving Belarus". The Moscow Times.com. Retrieved 2009-01-02. 
  7. ^ "Belarus Expels US Ambassador". China Daily. 8 March 2008. Retrieved 2009-01-02. 
  8. ^ Rafal Czachor, Polityka wielowektorowości Republiki Białoruś – geneza, podstawy konceptualne, przykłady realizacji, Wrocławski Przegląd Międzynarodowy, Vol. 1, 2011, pp.54-56, ISSN 1898-0317
  9. ^ Belarussian embassy in Yerevan (in Belarussian only)
  10. ^ Belarussian embassy in Vienna (in Belarussian and German only)
  11. ^ Belarussian embassy in Vienna (English version only)
  12. ^ Embassy of Azerbaijan in Belarus
  13. ^ Belarusian embassy in Sofia (in Belarusian and Bulgarian only)
  14. ^ Bulgarian embassy in Minsk
  15. ^ Belarussian embassy in Ottawa
  16. ^ "Hungary: Croatian, Slovene, Bosnian, Belarusian ministers discuss relations". HINA. 24 June 2000. Retrieved 2009-05-15. 
  17. ^ "List of international treaties and international acts signed between the Republic of Croatia and the Republic of Belarus". Croatian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Retrieved 2009-05-15. 
  18. ^ Belarussian embassy in Prague (in Russian only)
  19. ^ Czech embassy in Minsk (in Czech and Belarussian only)
  20. ^ Belarussian consulate general in Tallinn
  21. ^ Foreign Minister to Open Estonian Embassy in Minsk
  22. ^ Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland about relations with Belarus
  23. ^ Belarussian embassy in Paris (in French and Russian only)
  24. ^ French embassy in Minsk (in Belarussian and French only)
  25. ^ Belarussian embassy in Berlin(in German and Russian only)
  26. ^ Belarusian Branch office of the embassy in Bonn
  27. ^ embassy in Minsk (in German and Russian only)
  28. ^ Belarussian embassy in Budapest
  29. ^ Hungarian embassy in Minsk
  30. ^ Belarus, Hungary sign accord to prevent double taxation
  31. ^ Belarusian Ministry of Foreign Affairs: direction of the Belarussian embassy in New Delhi
  32. ^ Indian embassy in Minsk
  33. ^ http://www.tehrantimes.com/Index_view.asp?code=184639[dead link]
  34. ^ "Belarusian embassy in Ireland". Belarus.visahq.com. Retrieved 2010-10-24. 
  35. ^ "Irish embassy in Belarus". Ireland.visahq.com. Retrieved 2010-10-24. 
  36. ^ Belarussian embassy in Israel
  37. ^ Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs: direction of the Israeli embassy in Minsk
  38. ^ Belarussian embassy in Rome (in Italian and Russian only)
  39. ^ Italian embassy in Minsk (in Italian and Russian only)
  40. ^ Belarussian embassy in Tokyo (in Belarussian and Japanese only)
  41. ^ Japanese Ministry of Foreign affairs about relations with Belarus
  42. ^ Belarussian embassy in Kazakhstan (in Russian only)
  43. ^ Kazakh embassy in Minsk (in Russian only)
  44. ^ Belarussian embassy in Bishkek (in Russian only)
  45. ^ Kyrgyz embassy in Minsk (in Russian only)
  46. ^ Belarussian embassy in Riga (in Russian only)
  47. ^ Latvian embassy in Minsk
  48. ^ Belarussian embassy in Vilnius
  49. ^ Lithuanian embassy in Minsk (in Lithuanian and Russian only)
  50. ^ Lithuanian general consulate in Hrodna (in Lithuanian and Russian only)
  51. ^ "Bilateral relations with Malaysia". Embassy of Belarus in Indonesia. Retrieved 26 January 2014. 
  52. ^ Direction of the Belarussian representation in Malta
  53. ^ Direction of the Maltese representation in Belarus
  54. ^ Belarussian Embassy in Chisinau
  55. ^ Embassy of the Republic of Moldova in Belarus
  56. ^ Belarussian embassy in Beijing
  57. ^ Chinese Ministry of Foreign affairs about relations with Belarus
  58. ^ "Embassy of Belarus in Poland" belembassy.org Link accessed 26 March 2009
  59. ^ "Embassy Belarus in Poland" belembassy.org Link accessed 26 March 2009
  60. ^ "Embassy of Poland in Belarus" minsk.polemb.net Link accessed 26 March 2009
  61. ^ Romanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs: direction of the Belarus embassy in Bucharest
  62. ^ Belarus Ministry of Foreign Affairs: direction of the Belarusian embassy in Minsk
  63. ^ Belarusian embassy in Bratislava (in Slovak only)
  64. ^ Slovakian embassy in Minsk
  65. ^ Belarussian embassy in Seoul
  66. ^ Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation: Spanish representations in Belarus
  67. ^ Belarus embassy in Stockholm gets the boot sverigesradio.se 2012-08-08
  68. ^ Swedish embassy in Minsk (in Belarusian and Swedish only)
  69. ^ Office of the Swiss Embassy in Minsk
  70. ^ Belarussian embassy in Bern
  71. ^ Belarusian embassy in Damascus
  72. ^ Belarusian embassy in Ashgabat (in Russian only)
  73. ^ Belarussian embassy in Kiev (in Russian only)
  74. ^ Ukrainian embassy in Minsk (in Russian and Ukrainian only)
  75. ^ Belarussian embassy in London
  76. ^ British embassy in Minsk
  77. ^ Belarussian embassy in Tashkent (in Russian only)