France and Belarus

Presentation

Political relations

For the first time in the history of Belarus, the French President visited Minsk on 11 and 12 February 2015 (to negotiate the “Package of Measures for the Implementation of the Minsk Agreements”). Since 2014, reflecting a gradual resumption of relations between the European Union and Belarus, political contacts have increased between France and Belarus (visits by the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Belarus to France; visit by the Belarusian Minister of Agriculture; visit by the Belarusian Minister of Natural Resources and the Environment; visit to Paris by the Deputy Prime Minister of Belarus; meeting between the French and Belarusian foreign ministers in September 2016).

Economic relations

As the 14th-largest supplier of Belarus and its 6th-largest European supplier, France has a 1% market share in Belarus (Germany: 6%). Trade between France and Belarus fell sharply in 2016 compared to the previous year, to €137 million (-50%) due to the fall in oil imports combined with the contraction of the Belarusian economy. Trade rose again in the first half of 2017. Our exports remain diversified (manufacturing industry, chemicals, perfumes and cosmetics, pharmaceuticals).

There is a high potential for developing trade. The entry into force of the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) in 2015 has created new opportunities, particularly for French companies already established in Russia. In 2010, the credit insurance policy1 was again opened up to Belarus. The meetings of the bilateral joint economic commission have brought together the two countries’ business communities.

Cultural cooperation

Bilateral cultural cooperation has two main focuses: the teaching of French and promotion of Francophonie, and academic cooperation.

Regarding the teaching of French, a network of French-speaking bilingual sections was established in 1997, offering a bilingual four-year course through to the end of high school. It consists of eight establishments, one in Minsk and seven in the regions. An administrative arrangement on the opening and operation of this network was signed on 12 November 2015 to include this bilingual course in the list of free compulsory courses approved by the Belarusian Ministry of Education. The Embassy of France in Belarus also offers students French language certification and classes at the French-Belarusian Centre for European Studies (CFB). The promotion of Francophonie in Belarus has been supported since 1996 by the French Media Library in Minsk and its network of ten French information offices and reading rooms throughout the territory.

The main tool for student cooperation between France and Belarus is the French-Belarusian Centre for European Studies (CFB), which offers a delocalized University of Bordeaux degree course. This course leads Belarusian students to a university degree in political science and European studies and a first-year French Master’s degree in European Laws. Some 230 students attend the course each year and 25 graduate on average.

The artistic programming managed by the French Embassy in Belarus is a showcase for this two-fold cooperation and is marked by four events each year: participation in the Minsk International Book Fair in February which brings together French authors, publishers, translators and illustrators; the Month of Francophonie in March, participation in the Month of Photography in Minsk in October, and participation by France in the Minsk International Film Festival (MIFF) “Listapad” in November. In addition to these events, some 20 events take place throughout the year in the fields of music, theatre, design, architecture and gastronomy.

1 The commission defines the guarantee capacities of Coface on behalf of the French government for export contracts.

Updated: 07/12/2017

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