|▲ 주한 벨라루스H.E 안드레이 포프코프 대사|
The following is an exclusive interview with H.E. Andrey Popkov, Belarus
Amb. to the Repulic of Korea regarding Belarus' investment environment for
Korean investors as well as Belarus' cooperation agendas after the pandemic
era on the occasion of the Belarus Republic Day 2020. -Ed.
First of all, what is your opinion on Belarus - Korea relations after the pandemic era, for example in the areas of IT cooperation, logistics etc. to name just a few?
I must say that COVID-19 pandemic is a very serious challenge for the global community and global economy especially.
The outbreak of the pandemic has made unexpected adjustment in our bilateral plans of contacts for this year. We have a number of events and high ranking visits planned for 2020 and now we are working with the Korean Side to readjust our plans.
I sincerely hope that after the situation is stabilized we will effectively proceed with the implementation of the planned meetings and other events.
I have to mention that ICT, science and technology cooperation are among our priorities when we talk about our bilateral relations with Korea.
Since 2017 two meetings of the Joint Working Group on Sciences and Technology were held in Seoul and in Minsk. During the last meeting in April of 2019 the Executive Program of the Scientific, Technological and Innovation Cooperation for 2019 – 2020 was signed.
To develop bilateral cooperation and to establish new directs contacts between the research and scientific institutions the both sides have started to hold Belarusian-Korean Forums on Science and Innovation on a regular basis.
Belarus-Korea IT Cooperation Center in Minsk gave us the opportunity to work closely on mutually beneficial IT-projects.
High-tech is one of the most promising directions of bilateral cooperation to meet the challenges of the 4th Industrial Revolution and I am confident that taking into consideration the Digital New Deal that is now promoted by the Government of the Republic of Korea IT and high-tech collaborations between our countries have a great potential.
|▲ Blue-eyed Belarus. Photo Alexei Isachenko|
What are the advantages of Belarusian investment environment for Korean enterprises which are eager to work in EU, EAEU and CIS countries?
Belarus is an industrial and transportation hub in Eastern Europe that has a lot of advantages for Korean enterprises and investors.
Our location on the crossroads of main transportation routes from Europe to Asia and well-developed transport and logistics infrastructure provide direct access to the markets of the CIS and EU countries.
Belarus has common borders with European Union and upholds cooperation with its Member States. It enables companies located in our country to benefit from the target markets of EU countries with around 500 million consumers, on one hand, and Russia, Kazakhstan, Ukraine and other countries of the region with their 280 million consumers, on the other hand. It also provides direct access to the 182-million market of five EAEU countries. Belarus is an export oriented economy with a highly developed distribution infrastructure in many countries.
Belarus is one of economically and industrially developed post-soviet countries. Industrial sector comprises nearly one third of national product's volume. Belarus retains industrial bases, solid engineering and scientific schools created in the previous periods. Belarus, much like Korea, relies strongly on its human resources, highly qualified and well-trained professionals.
One of our priorities at the Embassy is to promote trade and investment cooperation between our countries and we are constantly working on raising awareness of the prospects of cooperation with Belarus for Korean companies.
On June 30, 2020 the Embassy and Korea International Trade Association (KITA) organized a round table in COEX (Seoul) with the participation of major Korean companies doing business or discussing trade and investment projects with Belarus.
It was a good opportunity for all participants representing a number of well-known Korean companies to share their experiences of cooperation with Belarus.
|▲ Great Stone industrial park (Belarus)|
What is the role of Belarus in tackling regional and global issues as a member of Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU), and Eastern Partnership (EAP)?
Belarus is an active member of the regional organizations. We are striving to be active contributors to the organizations and formats we participate in. The main purposes of our regional engagements are to ensure advancement of our interests in broadening and deepening cooperation and ensuring our security. We respect our neighboring states and are keen to establish long-term stable relations with them and other countries in the region.
Belarus is a founding member of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). The headquarters of this regional entity is located in the city of Minsk. CIS was the first step to regional interaction and preserving close political, economic, humanitarian ties between post-Soviet countries.
The founding of the Eurasian Economic Union is a historic pass in a long gradual integration process. First agreements on creation of the Customs Union were concluded back in 1995 by Belarus, Russia and Kazakhstan. In 1999 the idea of an economic union was stipulated in the Agreement concluded by four countries (Belarus, Russia, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan).
Belarusian participation in the EAEU provides a number of privileges for our economy and foreign trade. Belarus is located at the junction of the two largest integration projects on the continent and can become an effective bridge between the EAEU and European Union, which in the future will provide an additional synergistic effect from combining the economic potentials of the West and the East of Eurasia.
I want to recall that the President of the Republic of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko, precisely in this context, launched the initiative of “integration of integrations” with the goal of creating a common economic space in Eurasia, strengthening comprehensive and mutually beneficial cooperation with other countries and regional associations.
During Belarus’ chairmanship in the Eurasian Economic Union in 2020 our Side will do its best for achievement of these goals.
Belarus is one of active stakeholders in the Eastern Partnership initiative aimed to bring the EU and its six post-Soviet neighbours closer to each other. Belarus advocates more pragmatic cooperation under the EaP in line with the interests of all EU Partner States. In cooperation with other countries Belarus promotes development of concrete projects that would improve energy and transport interconnections, strengthen regional energy security, counter environmental risks, reinforce border security, and raise the efficiency of customs measures to spur trade between the EU and its Partner States.
|▲ Nesvizh Town Hall|
What is the standpoint of Belarus on handling the COVID-19 pandemic and its strategy to overcome it?
COVID-19 pandemic is a serious challenge for all the countries and Belarus is no exception in this matter.
The Belarusian Government is deeply involved in the process and started taking proactive measures as soon as the first cases of the disease were registered in Belarus. Patients and their contacts are tested and observed and placed in the medical care facilities depending on the severity of their cases.
There is a lot of work ahead but now the situation in Belarus is stable and the numbers of new cases are going down on a daily basis.
In March special regulations regarding the self-isolation for people who arrive in Belarus from abroad were introduced. This category of travelers has to observe 14-day self-isolation at home and is not allowed to leave Belarus until the self-isolation period is over.
Nowadays Belarus eases these regulations for people arriving from the countries where general situation with the pandemic is under control and I am happy to notice that starting from June 25, 2020 all inbound travelers from the Republic of Korea are exempted from the requirements of self-quarantine upon arrival.
We are grateful for the aid to combat the COVID-19 pandemic provided by the Korean Side. We are currently working on the details and hope to receive a significant number of Korean test kits in the foreseeable future. This contribution of the Republic of Korea will not go unnoticed and I am confident that these test kits will be a significant help to combating the spread of the disease.
What are the prospects for Korean tourists who are eager to explore Belarus in the years to come? Could you recommend Belarus tourism attractions for Korean travellers?
We see that Eastern European region overall becomes more and more popular travel destination among Koreans. We hope to welcome more Korean tourists in our country after the pandemic.
In 2019 reporters from KBS1 visited Belarus and one of the episodes of the travel show “Walk Expedition” was dedicated to travelling around Belarus. We hope to have more projects like this in the future and hope to welcome more and more Korean visitors in the upcoming years.
Belarus is a welcoming country which has a lot to offer to any kind of tourist: a new cultural experience, great opportunities for eco- and agrotourism, a great number of cultural events throughout the year and a lot of other activities.
Since 2018 foreign travelers can enjoy visa-free entry to Belarus for 30 days. This measure was taken in order to facilitate all kinds of people-to-people exchanges, make Belarus more popular for business and tourism.
In 2020 many countries commemorate the Victory over Nazism in World War II. This tragic period has heavily affected our country in all aspects and the reflections of this war can be found in every city, town and village.
The memory about this time is well preserved in a significant number of war monuments and historical sites dedicated to this period, such as Brest Fortress and Belarusian State Museum of the History of the Great Patriotic War.
We are doing our best to simplify travelling to Belarus and we are working with the Republic of Korea in order to eliminate existing barriers and limitations for travelers of both countries. We hope to witness the positive outcome of this work in the foreseeable future.
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