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Foreign relations of Belarus

Under an arrangement with the former U.S.S.R., Belarus was an original member of the United Nations. It also is a member of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS--a group of 12 former Soviet republics) and its customs union, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), NATO's Partnership for Peace[?], the North Atlantic Cooperation Council[?], the International Monetary Fund, and the World Bank.

Following the recognition of Belarus as an independent state in December 1991 by the European Communities, EU-Belarus relations initially experienced a steady progression. The signature of the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA) in 1995 signaled a commitment to political, economic and trade cooperation. Significant assistance was provided to Belarus within the framework of the Tacis Program[?] and also through various aid programs and loans. However progress in EU-Belarus relations stalled in 1996 after serious setbacks to the development of democracy, and the Drozdy conflict. The EU did not recognize the 1996 constitution, which replaced the 1994 constitution. The Council of Ministers decided against Belarus in 1997: The PCA was not concluded, nor was its trade-related part; Belarusian membership in the Council of Europe was not supported; bilateral relations at the ministerial level were suspended and EU technical assistance programs were frozen.

Acknowledging the lack of progress in relation to bilateral relations and the internal situation following the position adopted in 1997, the EU adopted a step-by-step approach in 1999, whereby sanctions would be gradually lifted upon fulfillment of the four benchmarks set by the OSCE. In 2000, some moderately positive developments toward the implementation of recommendations made by the OSCE AMG were observed but were not sufficient in the realm of access to fair and free elections.

Russia is the largest partner for Belarus in the economic and political fields. In terms of trade, two-thirds of Belarusian exports go to Russia. Due to the structure of Belarusian industry, Belarus relies heavily on other CIS countries and Russia in particular both for export markets and for the supply of raw materials and components. The introduction of free trade between Russia and Belarus in mid-1995 led to a spectacular growth in bilateral trade, which was only temporarily reversed in the wake of the financial crisis of 1998. Lukashenko seeks to develop a closer relationship with Russia. The framework for the Russia-Belarusian Union was set out in the Treaty On the Formation of a Community of Russia and Belarus (1996), the Treaty on Russia-Belarus Union, the Union Charter (1997), and the Treaty of the Formation of a Union State (1999). The integration treaties contain commitments to monetary union, equal rights, single citizenship, and a common foreign and defense policy. They also have established a range of institutions modeled after the EU. After protracted disputes and setbacks, the to countries' customs duties were unified as of March 2001. Belarus has made progress in monetary stabilization in the context of ongoing negotiation with the Russian Central Bank on monetary union.

Belarus-U.S. relations
Belarus' relationship with the United States is strained, as the United States wishes to establish businesses in Belarus faster than Belarus wishes them established. The United States has encouraged Belarus to conclude and adhere to agreements with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on the program of macroeconomic stabilization and related reform measures, as well as to undertake increased privatization and to create a favorable climate for business and investment. Although there has been some American direct private investment in Belarus, its development has been relatively slow given the uncertain pace of reform. An Overseas Private Investment Corporation agreement was signed in June 1992 but has been suspended since 1995 because Belarus did not fulfill its obligations under the agreement. Belarus is eligible for Export-Import Bank[?] short-term financing insurance for U.S. investments, but because of the adverse business climate, no projects have been initiated. The IMF granted standby credit in September 1995, but Belarus has fallen off the program and did not receive the second tranche of funding, which had been scheduled for regular intervals throughout 1996. Since that time, Belarus has had an ongoing discussion to relaunch IMF-backed reforms, concluding an arrangement for an IMF Staff-monitored program (SMP) in 2001. However, the authorities did not follow through with reforms as hoped, leaving an uncertain future for IMF-backed cooperation.

Disputes - international: none

Illicit drugs: limited cultivation of opium poppy and cannabis, mostly for the domestic market; transshipment point for illicit drugs to and via Russia, and to the Baltics and Western Europe

Reference Much of the material in this article comes from the CIA World Factbook 2000 and the 2003 U.S. Department of State website.

See also : Belarus



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