The Reality Is More Interesting Than the Misconceptions

emerging europe belarus outlook ebrd

Read the Outlook on Belarus special report


Andrew Wrobel

About Andrew Wrobel

Andrew Wrobel is the head of content strategy and publishing at Emerging Europe. Trained as a journalist and a filmmaker, he has worked for press and broadcast media for over 15 years, covering business and economy. He has authored and contributed to a number of international business, investment and trade-related publications and reports. He specialises in nation branding (PhD candidate). He's a frequent moderator, panellist and 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!


The EU’s Benign Neglect of Eastern Europe

Feel the Vibe of the City of Minsk

Trinity suburb in Minsk (Nemiga) Belarus on 20 May 2017

UK Shores: the New Frontier, a View on a Series of Fortunate Events

From Denmark to Belarus — A Personal Experience of Business

Young Well-Paid IT Specialists Are Making Belarus Known Internationally

The EU Is Encouraging Belarus to Join the World Trade Organisation

Belarus and Singapore Share the Same Factors for Economic Success

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

The Deep Roots of Currency Crises in the Former Soviet Union

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

A New Modern Mall Hopes to Draw Belarusians Back to the Home Market

RRY Capital

Belarus Is One of the Top Outsourcing Destinations of 2016

Belarus’s Election Tests the EU’s Global Strategy

Emerging Europe Live: Life in Belarus As Seen by Foreigners

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

Belarus Is Where the New Silk Road Heads For Europe

Belarus: MOST Builds a Bridge to the Future

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

Outsourcing in Germany: Stop Talking at and Start Talking to

Belarus 2020: Turning the Vicious Circle Into an Upward Spiral

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

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

The Country Shows Promise but Needs Some Reforms

Belarus Serves up Some Recipes for Success

Business in Belarus Recipe Book

Belarus Is Ready to Begin With Venture Capital Investments

HTP: Belarus’ Engineers Are Leading a Cool Revolution

Rolling Sales Procedures Together so Everyone Succeeds


Belarus’ Economy Is Slowly Recovering From Past Declines

Using Words to Paint a Picture – Belarus’ Nobel Prize Winning Novelist

Bringing Belarus’ Cultural Past to Life for Belarusians and the World

Encouraging SME’s Development Will Help Build Belarusian Economy

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

Belarus Has To Make an Extra Effort To Change Investors’ Perceptions

EBRD Emerging Europe Outlook on Belarus 2016

IMF Believes State-Owned Enterprises Must Be Reformed

Image of the banknotes of new Belarusian banknotes five rubles put into circulation July 1 2016

Office Space Vacancy is Currently Low but Building Standards Cause Concern

Minsk Belarus - March 23 2017 modern architecture business center Pokrovsky on Pobediteley Avenue editorial

Belarus US Business Relations Thrive as Conditions Improve

One Belt One Road: a Big Task for Europe

The Eurasian Economic Union Fails to Bring Belarus Closer to Big Brother

Why Is Belarus Tech Booming?

Belarus: Changing Old Ideas And Mixing With the New in Belarus’ Export Market

Minsk International Airport Widens its International Reach


The Belarusian Banking Sector Moving Towards Modernisation Despite Some Challenges

Belarus Is Making the First Steps onto the International Finance Floor

Italy and Belarus: A Relationship Based on Complementarities and History

The Belarusian Financial Sector: An Industry in the Process of Restructuring

Germany and Belarus: Thinking Globally Acting Locally

Brexit Makes Waves Across the European Union and Beyond

Winds of Change for Belarus’ Reinsurance Industry?

Foreign Investors: Belarus Offers Opportunities But Further Improvements Are Needed

The Proof of a Country’s Readiness to Attract Foreign Investors Lies in the Development of the Insurance Market

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

Innovation Brings Great Opportunities to the Belarusian Economy

Belarus and the EBRD:
Working to Expand the Country’s Strengths and Success

Belarusian Economy on a Diet to Change its Financial Outlook

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

Belarus Has Set an Example for Others to Follow

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

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

Brexit Is a Great Opportunity to Attract Foreign Investors to Belarus

Business Mentors Helping to Solve Business Development Problems First

Portrait of confident business people interacting in the office

A Strategic Asset for Regional Growth and Development in the EU

Pier bridge crane and cargo handling cargo trains transported away.

Will European Business and Institutions Bolster the New Trends That Have Appeared in Belarus?

Business Opportunities in Belarus Encourage Outside Interest

Belarusian Economic Recovery May Downgrade Intended Reforms for Competitiveness

FocusEconomics: Belarusian Economy to Grow in Q4 2016 and Onwards

The Belarusian Economy: The Challenges of Stalled Reforms

Belarus: On the Way to a Market Economy?

While the EU Makes Plans for CEE China Makes Investments

Nuclear Security Summit In Washington, 2016

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