EU – Belarus Relations
The conduct and aftermath of the 2020 Presidential elections in Belarus have put at risk progress made in bilateral relations in the past years. The overall human rights, democracy and rule of law situation in Belarus has significantly deteriorated in the run-up, conduct and aftermath of the 9 August 2020 Presidential elections, which the EU has declared neither free nor fair. On 12 October the EU Foreign Affairs Council adopted new Conclusions on Belarus. As a result, the EU has launched a comprehensive in-depth review of the EU-Belarus relations, which includes financial cooperation.
EU – Belarus Cooperation
The EU has been the largest grant donor in Belarus. Since 2016, the financial allocation for Belarus has amounted to around €30 million annual grant assistance, with a current portfolio standing at close to €135 million of commitments. EU assistance to Belarus aims at improving the quality of life of Belarusian citizens in a tangible and visible manner. EU support is funded through the European Neighbourhood Instrument (ENI) for the period 2014-2020. Other funding sources are the thematic programmes, focused on human rights and civil society.
In reaction to the repressions and state violence following the 2020 presidential election, the Commission reacted with stepping up targeted assistance to civil society and address the most urgent needs of the people of Belarus. We have prepared a sizable assistance package to support the Belarusian people, which includes:
- Over €2.7 million to assist the victims of repression and state violence. It covers legal assistance, medical support and other emergency assistance to those most in need.
- €1 million of support to independent media and digital outlets.
- €24 million assistance package, which will benefit directly the Belarusian people, in particular civil society, youth and small and medium-sized enterprises, and improve health capacities. Further support to facilitate SME access to finance, worth €6 million, is under preparation.
Key facts and figures
Since the EU lifted most of the restrictive measures against Belarus in February 2016, the EU has supported a number of key measures to help further develop the country’s economy:
- Cooperation with international financial institutions such as the European Investment Bank (EIB) and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD); a number of largescale infrastructure projects are under consideration for funding.
- Enhanced preparations for World Trade Organisation (WTO) accession – the removal of textile quotas for exports.
- The Dialogue on Economic and Financial issues resumed in April 2018 in order to exchange views on the economic and financial situation and outlook in Belarus.
- Under the EU4Business initiative, which supports private sector development, 900 enterprises have so far benefitted from loans, trainings and advice; 3,900 new jobs were created, helping Small & Medium Enterprises to grow and increase trade opportunities.
- The first Twinning project in Belarus has started between the National Bank of Belarus and the Bundesbank, together with the Central Banks of Poland and Lithuania.
- The EU-Belarus Coordination Group meets twice a year at the level of senior officials. This policy dialogue forum steers cooperation between the EU and Belarus and oversees further development of relations.
- The annual EU-Belarus Human Rights Dialogue provides a forum for discussion on the human rights situation in Belarus and joint steps to be taken in this area. The EU remains committed to cooperate with Belarus to enhance democratic governance and develop institutions responsive to citizens’ needs.
- Taking into account remaining important challenges in this area, the EU regularly raises issues related to freedom of assembly and association, freedom of speech and media as well as fundamental labour rights, with the Belarusian authorities at all levels. The European Union has raised its strong opposition to capital punishment, which is still in use in Belarus, and has called for a moratorium on the death penalty.
- In October 2016, Belarus adopted the National Human Rights Action Plan which underpins the process of domestic reforms and legislative amendments in respect of human rights and fundamental values. The EU is supporting its implementation, including for continued dialogue between the Government and civil society.
- In June 2017, Belarus joined the Eastern Europe Energy Efficiency and Environment Partnership (E5P). This Trust Fund, managed by the EBRD, supports loans for municipal sector projects on energy efficiency and the environment across the Eastern Partnership countries, and will provide Belarus with gradual access to €10 million for key projects in energy efficiency and environmental protection.
- The Strengthening Air Quality and Environmental Management programme backs Belarus efforts to modernise air quality monitoring and contributes to improved air quality in Belarus.
- After the EU-Belarus negotiations on a Mobility Partnership were concluded in 2016, the first high-level meeting took place in November 2017. The first cooperation project to increase Belarus’ capacity in view of the future Readmission Agreement with the EU was launched in 2018. Negotiations on Visa Facilitation and Readmission Agreements are underway.
- Erasmus+ gave the possibility to almost 1,000 students and academic staff from Belarus to study or teach in the EU countries between 2015 and 2017.
- Over 2,100 Belarusians have benefitted from mobility exchanges through the Mobility Scheme for Targeted People-toPeople-Contacts (MOST) programme offering short-term cultural exchange for professionals.
- Over 2,300 young people and youth workers from Belarus have been involved in joint exchanges, volunteering and capacity-building projects.
Factsheets and Factographs available to download:
- EU-Belarus Relations Factograph
- EU-Belarus Relations Factograph - Belarusian
- EU-Belarus Relations Factograph - Russian
- Factsheet: Economic support to democratic Belarus
- EU4Belarus: Solidarity with the People of Belarus
- Annual Opinion Survey results: 2020
- EU support to Civil Society in the region
- EU support to gender equality in Belarus
- EU support to independent media in the region
For more information on EU – funded projects in Belarus, visit: https://euprojects.by/
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For specific information (programme level), see below.
- ENPI 2013/024679/BELMED/International accreditation of testing laboratories
- ENPI 2013/024680/Regional and local development
- ENPI 2012/023456/Mobility Scheme for Targeted People-to-People Contacts
- ENPI 2012/023517/Green Economy in Belarus