EU Commissioner pledges strong support for private sector development in Belarus

Johannes Hahn and Vladimir Makei

The European Union is intensifying its cooperation with Belarus, with financial support of €29 million, more than double the budget initially planned, European Commissioner for Neighbourhood Policy Johannes Hahn said on a visit to Minsk on 30 January.

Speaking following a meeting with Foreign Minister Vladimir Makei, Hahn said they had discussed EU-Belarus relations and the importance of closer cooperation within the Eastern Partnership.

“Since the lifting of the restrictive measures two years ago, our relations developed further. The EU aims to build greater links between the EU and Belarus and on supporting reforms which have a direct positive impact for the people of Belarus,” he said.

“Our intensified co-operation can also be seen in the EU's financial support of €29 million, more than a doubling of the budget initially planned,” the Commissioner added, saying: “We strongly support regional and private sector development, especially SMEs, offer new opportunities for skills and professional development and support the civil society.” Later, Commissioner Hahn met participants of one of the EU’s most successful projects in Belarus, MOST, which aims to develop professional exchanges between Belarus and the EU.

Commissioner Hahn said the EU and Belarus had kicked off several sectoral dialogues, including on trade, where “we are addressing existing barriers in international trade and discussing Belarus' access to the WTO”

Through its EU4Business initiative, the EU supports private sector development and SMEs in Belarus. EU funding under EU4Business focuses on improving access to finance and foreign markets, building business skills and encouraging entrepreneurship.