Diplomat Valery Voronetsky: Austrian investors gladly choose Belarus

Diplomat Valery Voronetsky: Austrian investors gladly choose Belarus

Ambassador of Belarus to Austria and Croatia Valery Voronetsky explained why Austrian investors gladly choose Belarus in an interview with Egor Khrustalev's TV program Simple Questions.

Mr Voronetsky, this calendar year can be called the year of Austria in Belarus. Firstly, in the autumn of 2015, the first meeting between the two presidents took place. And, of course, the opening of the Austrian embassy in Belarus, despite the fact that Austria has closed its offices in the Baltic countries.   This all is a huge diplomatic success.

Valery Voronetsky, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Belarus to the Republic of Austria and the Republic of Croatia:
This, above all, is a manifestation of Austria's interest in our country. And I must honestly say that this interest is growing. The opening of the Austrian Embassy in Belarus speaks for itself. Indeed, the meeting of the presidents in New York was very important and the first ever visit of the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Austria to Belarus also took place. It is all crucial to bring our relations between Belarus and Austria to a new level. This is due, primarily, to a substantial economic interest of Austrian business in our country. In many ways, this interest is connected with the economic conditions that are created in our country for foreign investors. I must say that the Austrian investor gladly chooses Belarus and comes here. We are implementing a number of very important (and sometimes I would say strategic) investment projects that will be of great importance for the development of our economy. 

What exact proposals do you make to the Austrian side?

Valery Voronetsky:
This is a direct question. I cannot answer it right away because I can't disclose all the details of our relationship and that the diplomatic work that is carried out. But I have to just say that we show the advantages of coming to Belarus. The advantages of working in the Belarusian market. Those opportunities that the Belarusian market gives in view of Belarus' membership in the Eurasian Economic Union. This may held Austria enter the big market of the Eurasian Union.

As far as I know, hundreds of millions of dollars have come in recent years as direct investments to Belarus from Austria. But, basically, as far as I know, this is the turnkey construction of some enterprises...

Valery Voronetsky:
Yes, it is construction, in fact new production based on new Austrian and European technologies. And, I must say that we have good prospects for such cooperation. Just this year, when Vienna hosted the Belarusian-European Investment Forum, negotiations were held with a number of Austrian investors (including very large ones) on the implementation in Belarus of very interesting projects.

In turn, Belarus exports to Austria not that high-tech products, without super-large added value. Can you compare us with other countries in this respect, for example, with our neighbors, I mean the Baltic states, Ukraine and Poland? 

Valery Voronetsky:
I would not agree with you. Poland has very close ties with Austria, rather active trade relations, they are in the European Union, they do not have any restrictions, customs barriers and duties. It is clear that this allows them to develop trade actively. But with regard to Belarus, taking into account these factors, of which I said, customs restrictions... of course, this makes cooperation with Austria more difficult. But, nevertheless, we have a niche in the Austrian market. I am confident that after the implementation of new investment projects of Austrian businesses in Belarus, trade between our countries will continue to grow. And not only trade in goods but also trade in services. The export of Belarusian services to Austria is growing.

When opening the Austrian Embassy in the Republic of Belarus, Foreign Minister Vladimir Makei said that Austria's leaders had made a difficult but courageous and correct decision to open the embassy. Is it possible to make a conclusion from the word "courageous" that too many European countries were against it? Did you feel that pressure?

Valery Voronetsky:
Relations between the EU countries have also their own specifics related to the interests of these countries, including in Belarus. Therefore, when a country takes certain steps with regard to the development of cooperation and so on, it somehow affects the context of relationships with other countries.

Jealousy?

Valery Voronetsky:
Yes. Of course, this is because of economic and political interests of these countries. But Austrians did very wisely in this regard, they were pragmatic. This was done in accordance with their economic interests in the first place. Because they saw here great prospects for themselves, for their businesses. We must remember that most of Austria's GDP is produced abroad. Now they see good prospects for themselves in the Belarusian market. Again, taking into account our membership in the Eurasian Economic Union.

Mr Voronetsky, the history of Belarusian national diplomacy is not very long. We all came "from Stalin's overcoat", as was said in the Soviet Union. But the position of Belarusian diplomacy is completely different: there is no big Soviet empire standing behind and watching. What period was the most difficult or dangerous or maybe even unprepared in history. After all, Belarus is now celebrating 25 years of independence.    

Valery Voronetsky:
We must understand that our people have not appeared here 100 years ago or 50 years ago. These people have been here for centuries. And, of course, our land, our country and our people have a very powerful deep historical heritage. We can, of course, remember the principality of Polotsk - the beginning of our statehood. The Grand Duchy of Lithuania is certainly a part of our history, too, it is very significant. But even before the establishment of the Principality of Polotsk this land was also inhabited by people, they had their own interests, therefore, I can say that Belarusian diplomacy was based on the traditions that had already existed in the Middle Ages. Because we can remember Chancellor Lew Sapieha - he was the greatest diplomat. The experience through which our people passed, including in the Middle Ages, definitely has its impact on our current reality. I am convinced that we need to return to our historical roots, we need to know history, because it strengthens and consolidates our society and our state. As since history forms the spirit of the nation, it is very important.