VIENNA, 11 November (BelTA) – Belarus President Aleksandr Lukashenko has arrived in Austria on an official visit. The airplane of the head of state landed at Vienna International Airport, BelTA has learned.
At the airport the Belarusian leader was greeted by Austrian Federal Minister for Digital and Economic Affairs Elisabeth Udolf-Strobl, Belarusian Minister of Foreign Affairs Vladimir Makei, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Belarus to Austria Alena Kupchyna and Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Austria to Belarus Aloisia Worgetter.
From the airport Aleksandr Lukashenko headed to Vienna where he laid a wreath at the Soviet War Memorial. Attending the ceremony were also members of Belarus' delegation, representatives of the public, ambassadors of the CIS states to Austria. The head of state greeted each diplomat personally.
Among the diplomats was Ambassador Alexander Lukashevich, Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation to the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe. Talking to reporters he noted that it is symbolic that the Belarusian president started his visit to Vienna from the wreath laying ceremony. “This shows his attitude to this monument and to the fallen heroes. Many thanks to the Belarusian counterparts and the Belarusian leader for beginning their visit from this ceremony. It is very important,” he said.
“I believe that it is the right thing to do. Any visit of our leaders starts from laying wreaths. It is of particular significance for Russia and Belarus who paid a big price for liberating Vienna. My father was among those who liberated this city. The CIS ambassadors are actively involved in each event related to the Great Patriotic War anniversary,” the diplomat informed.
The Soviet War Memorial was unveiled in the center of Vienna in the summer of 1945. It commemorates the heroes of the Red Army who fell in battle against the German fascist invaders for the freedom of Austria.
On 12 November, the Belarusian head of state is expected to hold talks with Austrian President Alexander Van der Bellen. The two leaders will discuss ways to scale up cooperation in trade, economy, investment and humanitarian affairs. Political matters will also be high on the agenda. They include the situation in the region and the world, Belarus' cooperation with the European Union, including as part of the Eastern Partnership format, and also environmental matters.
The Belarusian president will also hold talks with President of the National Council of Austria Wolfgang Sobotka.
Aleksandr Lukashenko is set to meet with Chairman of the Austrian People's Party, member of the National Council of Austria Sebastian Kurz at a working dinner.
In the run-up to the visit of the Belarusian head of state to Austria, Belarusian Ambassador Alena Kupchyna told BelTA that the two states have developed strong ties across multiple fields. The foreign ministries of the two countries maintain regular contacts. Economic cooperation is gaining momentum. Contacts between business people are getting increasingly vibrant. Taking into consideration the available potential and the groundwork laid before, the most promising avenues of cooperation include mechanical engineering, petrochemical industry, logistics, alternative energy, projects in environmental conservation. Cooperation in information and communication technology holds great promise, too.
The Austrian-Belarusian business forum in Vienna will feature businessmen from the two countries, including representatives of big business. It is expected that a number of agreements and contracts will be signed during the forum.
Austria is looking forward to the Belarusian president's visit, Vice Chairman of the Belarusian-Austrian Society David Stockinger said in an interview to the ONT TV channel on 10 November. “We are confident that this is a step forward, an opportunity to build a stronger foundation for economic and humanitarian relations,” he said. “Austria has always been neutral. We are not a NATO member. Belarus is a country that promotes peace. This makes us even closer to each other. We have always advocated dialogue and trade,” David Stockinger said.
In 2018, the trade between Belarus and Austria amounted to $171.4 million, exports reaching $28.4 million, imports $143 million. In January-September 2019, the trade totaled $131.5 million (up 9.2% year-on-year).
Belarus' major exports are metal products, insulated wire and cables, furniture, specific goods, petroleum products. Belarus' import from Austria is dominated by pharmaceutical products, machinery and equipment, fittings and fixtures for furniture and doors, and food products.
In 2018 Belarus exported $116.1 million worth of services to Austria (78% in the transport sector). In January-August 2019, the export surged by more than 20% year-on-year.
Austria is one of the biggest investors in the Belarusian economy. In 2018, the investments equaled $296.7 million. The growth remains in place this year, too.