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Bilateral relations between Switzerland and Belarus
Since the establishment of diplomatic relations in 1992, bilateral relations have developed on a somewhat irregular basis. Between 2001 and 2010, Switzerland supported Belarus with humanitarian aid. A bilateral dialogue is held annually, and the themes discussed include human rights, in particular abolition of the death penalty.
Up until the time of the presidential election in December, which according to the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) was not held in compliance with international standards, contact took place at a high level. Due to the violent repression following the elections, Switzerland has reintroduced visa and financial sanctions against Belarus.
Until now, the development of trade between the two countries has been sluggish, and it is for this reason that Switzerland continues to be interested in better utilising existing potential. The basic treaties necessary to extend trade have been concluded, and agreements on trade and economic cooperation, on investment, and on double taxation are all in place.
Switzerland primarily imports agricultural products and exports pharmaceuticals, machinery and chemical products. Around 30 Swiss companies are represented in Belarus.
Scholars and artists from Belarus can apply to the State Secretariat for Education and Research (SER) for Swiss Government Excellence Scholarships.
As part of its chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, Switzerland advocated the abolition of the death penalty in Belarus. Switzerland intervenes at both a multilateral and bilateral level to put a halt to the application of the death penalty.
Beginning with 2000, the SDC became increasingly active in Belarus. In May 2010, all Swiss projects were transferred to local partner organisations.
The activities undertaken concentrated on measures to alleviate the consequences of the Chernobyl power plant disaster (child mortality, rehabilitation of health and social security services, disabled children, strengthening civil society) as well as the enhancement of disaster protection and rescue services. Civil society organisations also received support. The budget for 2001–2010 amounted to 25 million CHF.
At the end of 2011, there were 10 Swiss living in Belarus.
After the break-up of the Soviet Union, the Republic of Belarus declared its independence on 25 August 1991. Switzerland recognised the new state on 23 December of the same year. Since 1992, the Swiss ambassador in Poland has also been accredited in the Belarusian capital Minsk. In July 2007, Switzerland also opened a representation office in Minsk, which is under the supervision of the embassy in Warsaw.