Due to large-scale electoral fraud and human rights violations, the member states of the European Union did not recognise the official result of the presidential election on 9 August 2020 (reportedly 80.1% for the incumbent). The inauguration of Alexander Lukashenko as President on 23 September 2020 at an unannounced ceremony behind closed doors therefore lacks democratic legitimacy.
The presidential election marred by large-scale fraud on 9 August 2020 and the resulting massive deterioration in the human rights situation in Belarus 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 the same year. Back in June 2018, Federal President Steinmeier and President Lukashenko together opened a construction phase at the Maly Trostenets extermination camp memorial site.
Given current developments, the German side has furthermore decided to suspend with immediate effect the German-Belarusian Strategic Advisory Group set up by the two foreign ministers 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. The Goethe-Institut in Minsk, the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) and the PASCH initiative are among those playing a role here. There are also close ties between Belarus and Germany in the civil-society sector, such as concerning Chernobyl aid or societal reconciliation against the background of Nazi crimes. A German-Belarusian commission of historians was constituted as recently as the end of January 2020.
In 2019, the bilateral volume of trade with Germany was around two billion euro; Belarusian trade with the EU as a whole was worth just under 16 billion euro. Despite its low level of involvement in Belarusian foreign trade, Germany is the country’s fourth-largest trading partner behind Russian, Ukraine and China. Belarus’ main exports are oil products, machinery, IT services and agricultural products.
Over 300 German companies are active in Belarus, despite occasionally difficult economic and administrative conditions which threaten to worsen as the current domestic policy crisis persists.