The first snow of the winter has already fallen this month in Minsk, but Belarus‘s Prime Minister Andrei Kobyakov took time out from his cabinet in the capital today (Friday 27th October) to travel to Luxembourg to meet with European industrialists and investors at the Belarus Investment Forum.
We are entering a new era in improved relations between the EU and Belarus, and both sides are now actively working towards signing a partnership and cooperation agreement in the months ahead.
The European Commission has already doubled its financial support to Belarus to €30m per year to support regional initiatives and smaller to medium sized enterprises (SMEs), and is launching a new micro-finance facility valued at €5m. “Europe is ready to assist and support investment initiatives,“ Europe‘s Commissioner for Neighbourhood Policy Johannes Hahn told the conference.
The European Investment Bank (EIB) is active in Belarus, and has established a framework agreement to cover new activities in Belarus. The EIB provides finance in the 4 key sectors of Smaller to Medium Sized Enterprises, Infrastructure, Innovation, Climate and Energy, and they are already looking at different projects in Belarus linked to these categories.
At the conference, Alexander Stubb Vice-President of the European Investment Bank mentioned that during his recent private meeting with President Lukashenko of Belarus, both had exchanged views on democratic reforms in Belarus. It is a sign of the EU‘s recognition of Belarus‘s progress in this area that President Lukashenko has been invited to participate in next month‘s Eastern Partnership Summit in Brussels.
The country is on a charm initiative to woo international business and representatives of Foreign Economic Zones in Belarus such as Great Stone adjacent to Minsk airport, and Grodno close to the Latvian border, were present at today‘s conference to brief potential investors on the significant tax, real estate subsidies and other advantages of setting up business in Belarus. China now accounts for 4% of total FDI in Belarus, and views the Great Stone Industrial Park as an important hub in the “Silk Road Economic Belt” strategy.
Belarus continues to improve its rankings year by year in the ease of doing business index produced by the International Finance Corporation (IFC) and was ranked 37th in the 2017 edition. According to fDi Magazine, Minsk entered in 2017 its database of the top 10 most promising cities for foreign investors in Europe, ranked according to business and investment development.