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EU member states want to quickly introduce economic sanctions against Belarus for arrest of journalist Roman Protasevitsj. He was on a flight between Greece and Lithuania, an EU country, when Belarus forced the plane to land and he was arrested.

The sanctions are expected to include aviation and Belarusian companies that fund the regime, said Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission. But how big is the trade with Belarus and what kind of products and companies are we talking about?

Second business partner

The EU accounts for just under 20% of Belarusian-foreign merchandise trade. Last year the EU imported for about 3.9 billion euro from Belarus and exported about 6.2 billion.

This makes the EU Belarus’ second largest trading partner. By far the most important trading partner is neighboring Russia, which accounts for around half of it. By the way, do not expect sanctions from Russia: the country defends the action of Belarus.

Public enterprises

Much of the Belarusian economy and exports are in the hands of state-owned enterprises. According to Belarusian statistical office in 2019, this represented about a third of all exports.

If the EU banned trade with all Belarusian state-owned companies, Belarus would soon be missing over a billion euros. And maybe more, because the exports of Belarusian state-owned enterprises have increased significantly recently.

IKEA Supplier

The main Belarusian exports to the EU are wood products such as furniture, fuel and metal products. The export of timber is largely channeled through Bellesbumprom, a public company. This has benefited in recent times the shortage of wood. Belarusian news agency announces exports to Bellesbumprom in first two months of this year increased by about 15 percent to more than 90 million euros.

IKEA, among others, would import furniture from Belarus. According to the Swedish newspaper News of the day 7 percent of all wood in IKEA furniture comes from Belarus.

“Until now, the sanctions against Belarus have not been aimed at weakening the economy, also because you don’t want to affect the population too much,” says Bob Deen of the Russia and Eastern Europe Center of the Clingendael Institute .

“But now the EU wants to hit Lukashenko harder in his wallet, so that it becomes too costly for him to continue to misbehave. However, this is quite difficult to do well; you also want to avoid putting Belarus more in the arms of Belarus. Russia is floating. “

According to Deen, sanctions against specific state-owned companies can work over time. “You then deprive Lukashenko of foreign currency income. It could put pressure on the Belarusian ruble and the state budget. And he cannot just sell products that he cannot sell in the EU to Russia. “

In the past years, Belarus has transformed from a net exporter of logs into lumber exporter, investing in wood processing capacities in the country. In 2020, Belarus’ exports of softwood lumber to the European Union increased by 10% and a value of EUR 125 million, with main destination countries such as Lithuania, Germany and Latvia.

TOP 10 Importing Countries

Softwood lumber exported by Belarus to the European Union… (in cbm )

Importing Country 2019 2020 Last year
2,875,584 3,164,766 10 %
592,725 771,502 30 %
754,987 705,118 -7 %
656,724 619,958 -6 %
258,916 467,765 81 %
197,848 193,169 -2 %
414,384 407,254 -2 %
OTHER European Countries
1,218 %
1,172 %
46 %
TOTAL 2,875,584 3,165,984 10 %

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