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Joint ventures, research and investment: How will Belarusian-Slovak cooperation develop?

A new stage has been opened in relations between Minsk and Bratislava. On November 25, Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko met with the Prime Minister of Slovakia Robert Fico and expressed his gratitude to Slovakia for the normalization of relations between Belarus and the EU.

Slovakia is now chairing the European Union. In addition to politics the two officials discussed the prospects of economic cooperation. Among the most pressing areas is pharmaceuticals, nuclear energy, wood processing, production of tires.

Robert Fico - three-time Prime Minister of Slovakia - has already been to Belarus. Since 2003, a lot has changed in Minsk, he said.

Alexander Lukashenko, President of Belarus:
It's been difficult time for us, when there has been a serious lack of understanding in Europe what Belarus is, what its policies are, the way we live and work here. Your country and your Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, your citizens, Slavs brought to your country, to the EU leadership the true picture of the situation in Belarus. And you have done a lot so that we could normalize the relationships. I am very grateful for it. We tightly cooperate with your country in joint projects, your businesses work here. We are ready for the presence of your companies on the territory of Belarus. And we will do everything to ensure that under any equal conditions we can give advantage to your companies. Therefore, your visit, I hope, will be a new stage in the development of our relations. And, of course, now I'm ready for an absolutely frank conversation, I am ready to answer all questions that you might still have to Belarus. I know that it will benefit both you and us.

Robert Fico, chairman of the government of the Slovak Republic:
I first visited Belarus in 2003, and now, when I went to Minsk, in neighborhoods, I saw a lot of new modern facilities. Over this time, the country has changed a lot, and I sincerely congratulate you on this. I am very pleased that we can see today's meeting as a new impetus to bilateral relations. And I want to add that I am glad that the sanctions were lifted. This will help to bring the EU closer to Belarus. I think sanctions will not bring benefit to anyone.

Turnover in 2015 amounted to $170 million. In January-September 2016, it was $125 million.

Belarus imports mainly machinery, passenger cars and corn from Slovakia. Slovaks buy medical devices, wire made of ferrous metals, petroleum products and chipboard. Distribution networks help increase trade volumes. In 2016, the Belarusian company Belshina opened a representative office in that country. Belarusian tractors have been assembled in Slovakia since 2011.

Robert Fico:
We discussed several joint projects such as the construction of small hydropower plants in Belarus. Another very important area for cooperation is petrochemical industry. Slovak companies are interested in the supply of liquefied gas.

Belarus is waiting for Slovak businesses to come. This was confirmed at a meeting of the prime ministers of the two nations. There has been voiced a proposal to hold a business forum in Bratislava between Slovakia and Belarus.

Andrei Kobyakov, Prime Minister of the Republic of Belarus:
We have agreed to promote new industries aiming at high-tech products and their subsequent sale in the European Union and the Eurasian Economic Union.

The visit was official so a traditional ceremony of laying flowers was held at the Monument of Victory in Victory Square in the center of Minsk.

The Slovak delegation then left for Vitebsk region to see one of the most interesting investment projects in the region. This is Beshenkovichi - a relatively small urban settlement. But it is here where the only medical and pharmaceutical cluster in Belarus is placed. A plant for the production of new drugs against cancer and other serious diseases is going to open here in 2017. Investments amount to 15 million euros. Among investors is a Slovak company. Besides production facilities the cluster boasts a research center. New developments mean the ability to save lives, more jobs and import substitution.

The Belarusian classic Yanka Kupala twice visited Belarus. The eminent Belarusian was called there in a Slovak manner - Janko. Remembering the interstate cultural heritage, Slovaks have decided to publish a collection of poems by the famous Belarusian poet. Representatives of Slovakia also announced an ice hockey derby. Their team will definitely come to Minsk for the Christmas tournament.

Joint ventures, research and investment: How will Belarusian-Slovak cooperation develop