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Opinions & Interviews

30 Oct 2017

Kobyakov on Belarusian-European Investment Forum in Luxembourg

Kobyakov on Belarusian-European Investment Forum in Luxembourg

The Belarusian-European Belarus investment forum headlined Invest in Tomorrow was held in Luxembourg on 27 October. The event was attended by government and business delegations from Belarus and a large number of representatives of European private companies. Belarus Prime Minister Andrei Kobyakov talked to BelTA and the Belarus 1 TV channel to sum up results of the forum.

Mr Kobyakov, the hall which hosted the forum ran out of free space very quickly. Some participants were forced to stand in the aisles. Is this a success?

There are different ways to look at it. Of course, one can say that the organizers miscalculated the number of participants, although they should not have. But, really, the number of people who attended the Belarusian-European Investment Forum was higher than expected. This was evident by the number of people standing in the aisles.

More than 200 representatives of European companies came to Luxembourg to attend the forum. This is a good sign and EU Commissioner Johannes Hahn took note of it. He said that people listened to the speakers with great interest.

Will you please tell us more about the documents that were signed during the forum?

We are beginning to reap the benefits of the Chinese-Belarusian industrial park Great Stone. Head of the Great Stone Administration Alexander Yaroshenko was one of the main signatories: he signed agreements with various companies to implement investment projects.

We registered our logistics center, which was set up in the park with the participation of China Merchants Group, in Europe, and I think it was one of the key projects. The list of founders of the Industrial Park Development Company will be supplemented with the German company that owns the largest river port in Europe – Duisburg. This company also controls, to a large extent, the railway transport in the EU.

An agreement was signed with the German company Dieffenbacher. It manufactures composite materials with a great range of applications in machine-building, construction. This is a very high-tech manufacture. This company has expressed willingness to implement a project in our park.

In addition, we signed an agreement with the 21st resident company of Great Stone. Thus, we keep up pace with the requirement of the head of state to attract high-tech manufacturers. You see that the park’s development has been gaining momentum.

A large group of representatives of Belarusian banks took part in the forum. Alexander Stubb, the Vice President of the European Investment Bank, made an interesting speech at the plenary session. A framework agreement signed with the bank this summer is gradually taking effect. The European Investment Bank will be implementing important projects, primarily infrastructure ones, in Belarus. The bank is also ready to support commercial projects in Belarus.

The European Investment Bank is a big bank. According to Alexander Stubb, this bank is ten times larger than the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. Its capacity is three times higher than that of the World Bank. It means a lot for us that the European Investment Bank is coming to our country. We had a very informative meeting with Alexander Stubb. We can see that they are serious about long-term cooperation with Belarus.

The focus of the forum was also on the IT sector. Today everyone in Europe knows that information technologies are a hallmark of Belarus. Belarus was named the European “Silicon Valley” several times during the forum. We believe that this is just the beginning. A document has been prepared to revitalize the development of the country’s Hi-Tech Park, expand significantly its development areas, conditions of its operation, modernize the regulatory framework taking into account the latest digital technology achievements. We believe that this is a fast growing area, and Belarus has been making great progress in terms of modern technologies.

Belarus has recently held a lot of investment forums. You attend them regularly. What’s your opinion of such forums? Do potential investors get necessary information about Belarus during these events? Is it the right format?

In order to advance your economic interests, you need to organize all kinds of events. Investment forums are one of the opportunities to showcase your potential. We took a serious look at the venue for this economic forum. We have so far held well-known forums in London, Frankfurt, and Istanbul. Last year the forum was held in Vienna. Luxembourg has been chosen this time because it is the financial capital of Europe. Businessmen from all over Europe attended the forum in Luxembourg.

They came there to learn more about Belarus, get the answers to their questions, and establish contacts with those with whom they can talk shop about the implementation of certain business ideas. Although it seems to us that we arrange economic forums frequently, they know little about Belarus, unfortunately. We need to meet and talk with people more often so that they could learn more about us and about the prospects for business development in our country. I believe that forums should be held in and outside the country. I underline once again that Europe does not know much about us for the time being. Unfortunately, there are some stereotypes that are very far from the reality but people want to know more about us. The interest we saw in Luxembourg just proves this once again.

The interest of European businessmen in Belarus was also illustrated by the number of personal meetings you had on the sidelines of the forum. There were over ten of them at the forum. Does it mean that they saw Belarus, what is more, they saw the Belarus with liberalized economy? I mean the package of documents on business promotion that has been recently signed in Belarus.

We shared additional information about the recently adopted documents during the panel discussions primarily dedicated to small and medium-sized business. They do not yet know much about the innovations at the moment. This is why it was a way to make the information available to the European public. I also want to stress that the interest in Belarus has become very clear lately. We met with EU Commissioner Johannes Hahn. Proposals were voiced at the meeting on working out approaches to drawing up a full-fledged Belarus-EU agreement at the level of experts. It was just an idea but the fact that the matter, which has been out of question for 20 years, is under consideration today speaks volumes. I had an interesting meeting with Luxembourg Prime Minister Xavier Bettel. It seemed to me that there was a genuine interest, judging by the number of participants (most Luxembourg ministers together with the prime minister). The initiative was our partners’, not ours. They said they were interested in the early signing of a double taxation agreement. We tried to bring this issue to our partners’ attention for several years and now it is them who have come up with an initiative. I think we will start bridging the gaps in regulatory matters soon. I am talking about bilateral relations with European countries and Belarus-EU relations, too.

 

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