Minsk and Indian Bangalore, Grodno and French Limoges, Brest and Polish Biała Podlaska, Vitebsk and Latvian Daugavpils…
Three hundred Belarusian cities are currently twinned with others in more than 35 countries worldwide. The international movement for such twinning has proven a powerful form of public diplomacy for many years, bringing collaboration in the spheres of trade, culture, science, education, medicine and environmental protection. Our nations are brought closer as a result.
Most of Belarus’ twin cities are in neighbouring Russia, with close relations being established with 76 Russian cities. In November, Minsk hosted the 7th meeting of twin towns and partners of Russia and Belarus, with the presidents of both states sending their greetings to participants.
Partnership with economic focus
The event gathered 160 participants from 55 Russian cities and 35 Belarusian: heads of municipal departments, employees of state run public authorities and directors of enterprises. Before the meeting commenced, a speech was given by Nina Ivanova — the Chair of the Presidium of the Belarusian Society for Friendship and Cultural Ties with Foreign Countries. She noted that the forum differs from previous events in being the largest to date. She added, “Its goal is to enhance the efficiency of business interaction between our two states. Today, Belarus is actively developing, modernising its economy and opening up new opportunities for investments by Russian partners.”
According to the Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Russian Federation to Belarus, H.E. Mr. Alexander Surikov, 80 (out of 83) Russian Federation regions are already directly co-operating with Belarusian partners. In all, 39 cities have been twinned and, last year, mutual trade turnover, reinforced by these connections, reached $39bn. It is likely to achieve $40-41bn by the end of 2012. Belarus and Russia have exceeded pre-crisis volumes of 2008, while many thousands of jobs have been created. Disposable incomes have risen and people’s standard
of living is ever improving.
The potential of bilateral relationships is gradually being revealed via the Customs Union and the Single Economic Space (and, we hope, via the future Single Economic Union). Mr. Surikov notes the benefits of such unions, saying, “We now have freedom of movement for goods and services, as well as for capital and labour. These approaches bring opportunities for new joint projects. The Russian Embassy is to provide assistance to Russian trade representatives in Belarus, helping set up mutually beneficial contacts and developing businesses.”
Existing successful ventures were named by Boris Batura, the Chairman of the Minsk Regional Executive Committee and the Head of the Belarusian Twin Towns Public Association. Several modernisation projects are to be found in the Minsk Region: Avgust-Bel JSC (Pukhovichi District), which manufactures pesticides; Krupki horticultural factory; and Smolevichi’s veterinary preparations and forage additives plant. He is convinced that further bilateral collaboration is possible, stressing, “As part of twin relations, we attend familiarisation trips, seminars and exhibitions, trade fairs and cultural events. However, we need to start thinking bigger.”
Areas for co-operation were presented concisely at the forum, with three thematic sections: housing construction, the processing industry and agriculture. Participants visited enterprises and agricultural co-operative farms, seeing with their own eyes that Belarus boasts a high culture of manufacturing competitive goods which should be promoted more actively to the Russian market.
Alexandra Kovaleva, the Deputy Head of Rzhev Administration, was inspired by her visit to Minsk’s dairy factory #1 and meat packing factory. She now plans to set up a specialised department at the municipal trade enterprise to sell Belarusian food products.
Meanwhile, the Chairman of the Lyuban District Executive Committee, Vasily Akulich, has called on our Russian partners to promote Belarusian trade houses in twin cities. Such collaboration should support the economies of both our states.
Lobnya ever closer to Volozhin
Remarkably, the number of twin cities increased even during the forum, with corresponding agreements signed between Lobnya and Volozhin, Dzerzhinsky and Dzerzhinsk, and Kostroma and Bobruisk. Mr. Batura especially noted the fact, saying, “Pleasingly the twin-city movement continues to gather momentum and popularity. This inspires optimism and confidence that we’re on the right path.”
Mr. Batura is keen to see Belarus and Russia modernising their industries and establishing innovative manufacturing, using well trained personnel, the richest mineral resources from Russia, large scientific centres in both states and banking capital. Attractive conditions have been created for business, enabling Belarus to spark the interest of serious investors. In line with the World Bank rating, our country has shifted from 69th to 57th place, outstripping Russia. Mr. Batura has urged partners to join in creating small enterprises (employing up to 50 people) oriented towards high value-added produce. Injections are still needed in Russia and Belarus in the spheres of science, machine building, instrument making, micro-electronics, telecommunications, bio- and nano-technologies and space exploration.
Within a year, current agreements should be bearing fruit. The 8th meeting of twin cities is to be hosted by Russia and its agenda is already taking shape. Mr. Batura has proposed that twin cities report on their economic development, explaining, “We need to have full information on the number of economic agreements and treaties signed by twin cities, in order to follow the results of joint regional developments. We must realise concrete investment projects and set up more joint ventures.”
By Liliya Khlystun
Twin city derives from the word ‘brother’
[b]Minsk and Indian Bangalore, Grodno and French Limoges, Brest and Polish Biała Podlaska, Vitebsk and Latvian Daugavpils…[/b] Three hundred Belarusian cities are currently twinned with others in more than 35 countries worldwide. The international movement for such twinning has proven a powerful form of public diplomacy for many years, bringing collaboration in the spheres of trade, culture, science, education, medicine and environmental protection. Our nations are brought closer as a result.