Minsk further strengthens relations with “Old Europe”
In addition to normalizing relations with the European Union, Minsk aims to deepen cooperation with influential states of “Old Europe” which have an interest in the Eastern European region.
On November 5th, 2019, Foreign Minister Makei paid the first official visit to Sweden in the history of Belarusian-Swedish relations to participate in a high-level meeting on the occasion of the tenth anniversary of the Eastern Partnership. He also met with Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Linde and President of the Swedish Parliament Andreas Norlen. Relations between Minsk and Stockholm went through a diplomatic crisis after the "teddy bear drop" in 2012 but quickly returned to normal. The reason being, the events in Ukraine, Belarus’ new role in the region and Sweden’s general interest in the Eastern Partnership region and Belarus’ interest in the experience of developed neutral states.
The experience of neutrality coupled with mutual economic interest prompt Belarus to develop political relations with Austria. Last week, the parties discussed further details of the upcoming Lukashenka’s visit to Vienna, which, among other things, should be an important symbolic step towards normalizing relations between Belarus and the West. According to the Belarusian Ambassador to Austria, Yelena Kupchyna, over the past two years, trade in goods between the two states grew by almost 20%, and service trade doubled, reaching USD 185.3 million in 2018, with a significant surplus for Belarus. Last year, Austrian investment in the Belarusian economy totalled USD 300 million, and in H1 2019 – almost USD 200 million.
Military cooperation with the United Kingdom continues to develop. On November 5th, in London, representatives of the defence ministries of the two states signed the bilateral cooperation plan for 2020 (including language training, visits, training in peacekeeping skills, winter military training and military history study), and participated in briefings on the British Armed Forces operations.
Overall, the positive dynamics in relations between Belarus and the West retained. Moreover, it included enhanced economic, political and military cooperation.