The Reality Is More Interesting Than the Misconceptions


Andrew Wrobel

About Andrew Wrobel

Andrew Wrobel is head of editorial of Emerging Europe. Trained as a journalist and a film maker, he has worked for broadcast media for almost 15 years, covering business and economy and, occasionally, culture and tourism. He has authored and contributed to a number of international business, investment and trade-related publications and reports. In 2014, Andrew was awarded, by London-based EVCOM, for his coverage of an awareness campaign UKTI ran about CEE. He's a moderator, panelist and a media commentator. Twitter: @andrew__wrobel

At the end of October 2016, the World Bank published its “Doing Business 2017” report and ranked Belarus 37th. It also included the country in the list of the ten most-improved economies. This clearly reflects the changes the country has been going through over the last few years, and there are quite of few of them.

I went to Minsk for the first time in 2014, and at that time, the country ranked 63rd in the report. Even though I am frequent traveller who tends to have an open mind when going to a new place, I must admit I was positively surprised by what I saw: modern and trendy restaurants and cafes, clean and safe streets and welcoming, hospitable and helpful people.

I also remember how happy and proud Belarusians were of the 2014 Ice Hockey World Championships, which were hosted in Minsk. The event attracted over 640,000 viewers, the second highest audience since the beginning of the century. Only the Championship held in the Czech Republic in 2015, had a higher attendance.

The last two years have been quite good for Belarus, as far as awareness of the country is concerned. The country has been involved in the peace negotiations between Ukraine and the Russian Federation. In February 2016, the European Union lifted most of the sanctions that had been imposed more than a decade ago, citing “improving EU-Belarus relations,” and in October, the country resumed its trade dialogue with the EU. Next, in June 2019, Belarus will hold the second edition of the European Games.

These changes are also noticeable in the society. There is a misconception that Belarus is a locked country and that Belarusians travel only to Russia. While it might still take a long time and a mountain of documents to obtain a visa at an EU embassy there are plenty of people who are applying. In fact, Belarus sends the largest number of Schengen visa applications per capita. In 2015, eight per cent of Belarusians, or 750,000, asked to travel to Europe and only 0.3 per cent were denied a visa, which is the lowest ratio compared to any other country.

Moreover, not only do Belarusians seem open-minded and curious about the west but they are also easy-going and have a sense of humour and self-irony. In June 2016, President Lukashenko made his infamous faux-pas at the People’s Congress, saying “innovations, IT-technologies, privatisation — it is all clear. We’ve conquered all of them. But everything is very simple; one should get undressed and work.” That triggered a nation-wide flash mob on the internet and made hundreds of people post photos of themselves naked at work.
But speaking seriously; having relied significantly on its large neighbour for the last quarter of century, as well as having had the same person in power for more than two decades, Belarus has an international image that does not reflect its reality.

Despite being ranked 37th in the Doing Business report, Belarus is no New Zealand, who is the new leader, having overtaken Singapore in the latest edition. The country still has plenty of reforms to introduce and challenges to overcome. The good thing is that the changes are taking place.

The Emerging Europe Outlook on Belarus is here to discuss the country and to give you a better understanding of where Belarus stands and what trade and investment opportunities it offers.

Enjoy, and join our outlooks on Ukraine, Romania and Georgia, which we’re planning for 2017!


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“e-Belarus”: Embracing the Internet and its Possibilities

EBRD Emerging Europe Outlook on Belarus 2016

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Foreign Investors: Belarus Offers Opportunities But Further Improvements Are Needed

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Brexit Is a Great Opportunity to Attract Foreign Investors to Belarus

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Innovation Brings Great Opportunities to the Belarusian Economy

The UK and Belarus: A Partnership to Introduce the Real Belarus to Europe

The Deep Roots of Currency Crises in the Former Soviet Union

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FocusEconomics: Belarusian Economy to Grow in Q4 2016 and Onwards

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HTP: Belarus’ Engineers Are Leading a Cool Revolution

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Belarusian Tech Companies Lead a Global Technological Advance in Outsourcing and Product Development

The Great Stone Industrial Park — Making Doing Business Easy in Minsk

Belarus 2020: Turning the Vicious Circle Into an Upward Spiral

Belarus and Singapore Share the Same Factors for Economic Success

OECD: Belarus Has to Find Its Own Belarusian Model to Emerge

Belarus: On the Way to a Market Economy?

The EU Is Encouraging Belarus to Join the World Trade Organisation

Emerging Europe and the EBRD host the Outlook on Belarus conference in London

Business Opportunities in Belarus Encourage Outside Interest

The Shopping Experience Is Set To Go Global in Belarus from 2017 Onwards

Long-time Neighbours Need to Share Awareness, Plus Trade & Investment

Belarusian Economy on a Diet to Change its Financial Outlook

Veni, Vidi, Vici, Or My Personal Experience of Doing Business in Belarus

Belarus Is One of the Top Outsourcing Destinations of 2016

Germany and Belarus: Thinking Globally Acting Locally

Emerging Europe Live: Life in Belarus As Seen by Foreigners

Brexit Makes Waves Across the European Union and Beyond

Falling Student Numbers and Declining R&D Result From Lack of Funds

Encouraging SME’s Development Will Help Build Belarusian Economy

Germany Is Not Letting Belarus’ Small Downturns Put it off Looking for Investment Opportunities

The Belarusian Economy: The Challenges of Stalled Reforms

Young Well-Paid IT Specialists Are Making Belarus Known Internationally

Belarus Is Ready to Begin With Venture Capital Investments

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