The presidential election marred by large-scale fraud on 9 August 2020, the massive deterioration in the human rights situation in Belarus since then, and the political instrumentalisation of refugees and migrants by the Belarusian regime are placing considerable strain on bilateral relations with Germany and with the European Union. The events since the election on 9 August 2020 undermine the gradual improvement in relations recorded after the presidential election in 2015 and the release of political prisoners that same year.
Given developments over the past few months, the German side has furthermore suspended the German-Belarusian Strategic Advisory Group set up by the two foreign ministers only at the end of 2019. The aim of the Advisory Group – to intensify bilateral relations in the fields of politics, business, culture and civil society – is not achievable in the current situation. The Advisory Group is made up of eight figures from government, parliament, science, business and culture from each of the two countries.
Long-term bilateral cultural cooperation focuses on education and science and promotion of the German language, as well as music, theatre and exhibitions. On the orders of the Belarusian authorities, the cultural organisations Goethe-Institut and German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) have had to temporarily suspend their activities in the country. There are still close ties between Belarus and Germany in the civil-society sector, for example in the field of Chernobyl aid or societal reconciliation against the background of Nazi crimes.
In 2020, the bilateral volume of trade with Germany was around 1.9 billion euro; Belarusian trade with the EU as a whole was worth just under 10 billion euro. Despite its low level of involvement in Belarusian foreign trade, Germany is the country’s fourth-largest trading partner behind Russia, Ukraine and China. Belarus’ main exports are oil products, machinery, IT services and agricultural products.
About 150 German companies are at present active in Belarus, despite occasionally difficult economic and administrative conditions which have worsened with the current domestic policy Crisis.