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European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations (DG NEAR)

EU – Belarus Relations

The conduct and aftermath of the 2020 Presidential elections in Belarus, which the EU declared neither free nor fair, have put at risk progress made in bilateral relations in the previous years. The overall human rights, democracy and rule of law situation in Belarus has significantly deteriorated since then. Belarusians face persecution and imprisonment on politically-motivated charges, numerous non-governmental organisations have been forced to shut down or relocate abroad, and hundreds of thousands of Belarusians have left the country after 2020, with many settling in EU Member States. As a result of this crackdown and Belarus’ involvement in the Russian military aggression against Ukraine, the EU has imposed a series of sanctions, which include individual sanctions and sectoral measures.

On 12 October 2020, the EU Foreign Affairs Council adopted its Conclusions on Belarus, as a result of which the EU launched a comprehensive in-depth review of the EU-Belarus relations, which included financial cooperation. In February 2024, the Foreign Affairs Council adopted new Council Conclusions on Belarus. They are an update to the 2020 Conclusions, reflecting the developments of the past years and reaffirming the EU’s unwavering support for the Belarusian people’s quest for a free, democratic, sovereign and independent Belarus.

Cooperation formats

The EU has been playing a key role in keeping Belarus high on the global agenda and leading the international community in maintaining solidarity with the Belarusian people. Since 2022, the EU has been organising annual Senior Officials’ Meetings (SOM) on Belarus. The meetings bring together the representatives of the EU, EU Member States and the Belarusian civil society and democratic forces to assess the needs of the Belarusian people and facilitate coordinated support from donors. In 2023, the EU also launched a Consultative Group, which provides a high-level platform for exchanges between EU representatives and Belarusian democratic forces and civil society.

Economic Support Plan to Democratic Belarus

Once Belarus embarks on a democratic transition, the EU will ensure immediate and longer-term support to help it stabilise its economy, reform its institutions to make them more democratic and able to deliver benefits for citizens and society as a whole. These changes are the basis to undertake successful economic reforms to increase the economy’s resilience, growth potential and job creation. To this end, the EU stands ready to mobilise a substantial investment package for Belarus of up to €3 billion.

The comprehensive plan of economic support to democratic Belarus will be implemented through the full range of political and financial instruments closely calibrated and re-enforcing the international financial institutions’ support programmes, particularly the European Investment Bank and European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. The EU expects that the International Monetary Fund and World Bank would also step-up support for the country once a democratic transition takes place in Belarus.

EU – Belarus Cooperation

EU – Belarus Cooperation

Following the review of the EU-Belarus relations, and in light of the complicit role of the Lukashenka regime in the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine, the EU’s assistance post-2020 has been recalibrated towards non-state actors, providing substantial support to the people of Belarus in six key sectors: civil society, human rights, independent media, education, culture, and SMEs in exile.

Since 2020, the EU’s financial assistance to the people of Belarus has amounted to almost €140 million through the Neighbourhood, Development and International Cooperation Instrument (NDICI).

While the EU assistance was initially focused on responding to the emergency needs of repressed citizens and civil society during the post-electoral crackdown of 2020-2021, it is now aimed at the medium-term support for civic and media structures which face continuous repression. At the same time, the EU has expanded its support to wider segments of society to bridge gaps in the assistance, notably through funding dedicated to the cultural sector and exiled businesses. In the context of Russia’s growing influence on Belarus and the forced Russification of society, the EU also supports alternative educational and cultural projects contributing to maintaining the Belarusian identity. The EU also continues to support victims of repression.

Despite the fact that Belarusian authorities have suspended the country’s participation in the Eastern Partnership framework in June 2021, Belarusians continue to benefit from and have access to some of the EU’s regional programmes which foster cooperation between individuals and entities from all six Eastern Partnership countries. This includes programmes such as EU4Culture, EU4 Independent Media, EU 4 Gender Equality and Partnership for Good Governance.

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Further information

Factsheets available to download

Key documents

For specific information (programme level), see below.