Belarus views Slovakia as an important and promising partner in Europe, Belarus Prime Minister Andrei Kobyakov said as he met with his Slovakian counterpart Robert Fico on 25 November.
“The first official visit of the Slovakian Premier in the history of the Belarusian-Slovak relations and during Slovakia’s presidency in the EU Council is a landmark event for both the states. Belarus attaches great significance to strengthening partner relations and mutually beneficial cooperation with Slovakia. Slovakia is our important and promising European partner,” Andrei Kobyakov noted.
In his words, Belarus views the current visit as a powerful testimony to Slovakia’s friendly position, its readiness for constructive dialogue, joint search for opportunities and areas to intensify mutually beneficial cooperation.
The two countries have already reached a lot. They have been steadily developing trade and economic ties, strengthening regional, cultural, education and scientific contacts. The two states have a robust legal framework. “Frankly speaking, the potential of bilateral cooperation is still untapped. In 2015 the trade between Belarus and Slovakia made up about $170 million. Five years ago the bilateral trade reached almost $270 million,” said Andrei Kobyakov. The Belarusian Premier suggested putting in considerable effort to increase the volume and enhance the quality of the Belarusian-Slovak trade and economic relations.
There are subjects of the commodity-distribution networks of big Belarusian mechanical-engineering exporting companies in Slovakia. “Belarus is interested in advancing a wide range of its industrial products to the market of Central Europe with the assistance of Slovakia,” Andrei Kobyakov stressed.
According to the Belarusian head of government, the experience of Slovakia’s successful participation in the modernization of Belarusian companies of the petrochemical complex, food industry and the woodworking sector should serve as a basis to switch to the next level of industrial cooperation, i.e. the setting up of modern high-tech manufacturing facilities with prospects of entering the common market of the Eurasian Economic Union, the European Union, and also third countries. For instance, a modern innovative high-tech facility can be set up at the basis of NatiVita Company with the participation of Slovakia’s VitaPharma in Beshenkovichi to produce a wide assortment of drugs to treat tumors, autoimmune and serious infectious diseases.
“I am confident that today’s talks and the signing of agreements in different areas of cooperation will add the necessary impetus to the successful advancement of the Belarusian-Slovak relations,” Andrei Kobyakov said.
He also informed, that Belarus and Slovakia will manufacture high-tech products for the markets of the European Union and the Eurasian Economic Union together. “We have agreed to work on setting up new manufacturing facilities oriented on the production of high-tech goods for the markets of the European Union and the Eurasian Economic Union,” said Andrei Kobyakov. Robert Fico stressed for his part that the pharmaceutical sector can become a priority area of cooperation, including its research and development of anticancer drugs.
The Prime Ministers of Belarus and Slovakia signed a joint communique, which included the views of the governments of the two countries on the major issues of international and regional cooperation, and also agreements to develop bilateral all-round cooperation. In particular, the parties agreed to continue joint efforts at the governmental level to intensify mutual trade in goods and services, promote the implementation of joint projects in modernizing the production of tires and also in the automobile industry, food and pharmaceutical sectors. The parties also agreed to increase efforts in the development and implementation of new initiatives and investment projects in sectors such as energy, nuclear power and nuclear security.
According to the communique, the two countries will encourage small and medium-sized business to contribute to the development of Belarus-Slovakia trade and economic cooperation, including taking advantage of the potential of the chambers of commerce and industry, national sector-specific unions and associations.
Memorandums of cooperation were signed between Slovakia’s STM Power and the Belarusian national electrical company Belenergo, and also between Slovakia’s BOMAT and Vitebsk plant of radio parts Monolit to cooperate in the collection and recycling of household and technical electric waste in Belarus.
Communicating with media Andrei Kobyakov said, that Slovak investors are interested in Belarusian power engineering projects. “There are two specific projects that we are going to discuss with the partners. We expect that we will find ways to implement them,” specified Andrei Kobyakov.
As far as nuclear energy industry is concerned, Belarus is interested in the Slovakian experience of commissioning nuclear reactors, training personnel for nuclear power plants, and handling radioactive waste.
Robert Fico stressed that Belarus and Slovakia hold the same view on the development of nuclear energy industry and the construction of nuclear power plants. At present nuclear power plants generate 50% of Slovakia’s energy. In his words, it would be hard to imagine what could replace it. Meanwhile, the development of nuclear energy industry goes hand in hand with tough international competition. “It would be a mistake for Slovakia and Belarus to fail to cooperate in nuclear power engineering after accumulating a lot of experience,” believes Robert Fico.
He also said, that Slovakia invites Belarus to make the best use of the economic cooperation potential. “The potential of our economic cooperation is much bigger. We have discussed some of the areas with the President of Belarus today. We are ready to discuss promising areas,” Robert Fico said.
In his words, the current visit will contribute to the development of relations between Belarus and Slovakia, and also the relationship between Belarus and the European Union. “Slovakia views Belarus as a friendly country,” he stressed.
Robert Fico invited Andrei Kobyakov to visit Slovakia. He thanked the Belarusian side for a warm reception in Minsk. He first visited Belarus in 2003. “13 years has passed and there is a chance to compare. I would like to congratulate on this noticeable progress,” he added.
Belarus and Slovakia intend to cooperate in power engineering, pharmaceutics, and petrochemical industry. The relevant agreement was reached during the meeting.
Cooperation in woodworking, information technologies, agriculture, and tourism also looks promising.
Andrei Kobyakov told media that a large number of matters concerning Belarusian-Slovak cooperation had been discussed during the talks. Trade and economic cooperation remains the key avenue, he said.
The current visit of the Slovak delegation is particularly important for developing bilateral relations and in view of Belarus’ growing interaction with the European Union. “We expect assistance from Slovakia with further advancement of mutually beneficial cooperation of Belarus and the European Union, including within the framework of the Eastern Partnership Initiative,” noted the Prime Minister.
A Belarusian-Slovak commission on trade, economic, scientific, and technical cooperation will help implement the plans. The first session is scheduled for Q1 2017.
In turn, Robert Fico suggested organizing a forum of Belarusian and Slovak businessmen in Slovakia. He also suggested signing a Belarus-Slovakia agreement on cooperation in science and technology.