Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko is on Tuesday, 12 November, on a visit to Austria. It is his first foreign visit to an EU member state in more than three years.
On his first trip to EU in more than three years, Lukashenko met Austrian President Alexander Van der Bellen. Recall that Austria’s then-chancellor Sebastian Kurz visited Minsk in March.
During the meeting, the Belarusian president described Austria is an important and reliable partner and stated the country’s plans to have closer ties with the EU and Austria, in particular.
The sides held talks on the situation in the region and worldwide, the Eastern Partnership, human rights, environment protection, business contacts and new projects, among other things.
Austria is the second-largest foreign investor in Belarus after Russia and is very interested in expanding trade.
Belarus, which has recently suffered an economic downturn, is also likely to be interested in Western investors, Austrian political scientist and Russia expert Gerhard Mangott told DW.
Meanwhile, Vienna hosts an Austrian-Belarusian business forum, where €250 mln agreements are planned to be signed. Over 200 Austrian and Belarusian business representatives applied for the event.
Recall that Brussels sanctioned President Lukashenko following the crackdown after the presidential election in 2010, making it impossible for Belarus president to visit the EU states.
Only six years later, the EU lifted sanctions against Belarus in response to the release of opposition prisoners. Shortly afterwards, the president paid a visit to Italy where he met with Pope Francis.
Since 2016, Lukashenko has repeatedly been invited to visit Europe, but until now had declined them. Numerous visits from European and American leaders have followed in recent years, as he positioned his country as a “reliable partner” for the East and the West.