Central and Eastern Europe

Although fully fledged diplomatic relations with most of the countries in Central and Eastern Europe only date back to the early nineties, informal ties did exist prior to that between South African liberation movements and most of these countries, the majority of which were strong supporters of the liberation struggle.

Formal relations with this region are accordingly still being developed and since the early nineties much time and energy have been devoted, and are still being devoted, to the consolidation and proper structuring of South Africa's relations with this part of the world. A fundamental consideration in developing relations with the countries of the region, which are all classified as developing countries, is what contribution these relations could make to the promotion of the African Renaissance and its programme of implementation, the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD).

In line with the increasing multilateral character of international relations, and a shift of focus from individual countries to regional entities, South Africa is approaching Central and Eastern European states from a regional perspective without of course neglecting the bilateral dimension of relations.

As far as the operational environment is concerned, there are striking commonalties between South Africa, and in a wider context, the Southern African region, and the states of Central and Eastern Europe. The trademark of the South African society, but also of the Southern African region, is the ethnic, cultural, linguistic and religious diversity – this is also the trademark of many of the societies of Central and Eastern Europe. Furthermore, most of these countries find themselves in varying degrees of reconstruction, transformation and regional integration in the political, economic and social spheres – as in South Africa and most of its neighbours.

Since we have to cope with similar challenges posed by fundamental transitions as well as with the impact of globalisation on emerging economies world wide, we are in a sense natural partners in promoting the cause of the people of our respective regions globally. This more political or socio-economic dimension of our interests cannot be completely separated from our economic interests in that region. In fact, the nature of transition in many of the diverse societies in Central and Eastern Europe, enabled us to successfully export the South African example of peacefully overcoming deep diversions in a diverse society as our contribution to social stability in the region which is essential for economic progress.

While the orientation towards the EU – and EU membership in many instances – improve the medium to long term potential of these countries, it also implies that in the short to medium term their main focus will be on the development of their relations with the EU (also see South Africa and the EU).

In designing our approach towards that region, cognisance is taken of (i) fundamental changes in the economic structures of most of these societies, a process which is still in progress; (ii) the developing stage of our relations due to the fact that these countries are not traditional trading partners; and (iii) the absence of Department of Trade and Industry offices in most of these countries.

Against this background, the Department of Foreign Affairs developed the following approach in the economic field which takes into account the level of our presence in these countries (many countries are served by non-resident Ambassadors from neighboring countries); the limitations of our financial and human resources; and the economic potential of these countries:

Intensive and regular bilateral interaction with the Foreign Ministries in those countries by our Embassies and by the Department of Foreign Affairs with their Embassies in Pretoria take place to develop well structured relations; to identify areas of co-operation in all relevant fields; and to monitor implementation and progress of this co-operation;

Establishing legal frameworks for co-operation through the signing of bilateral agreements, especially in the economic, security, science and technology and cultural fields are important;

Promoting the exchange of trade delegations and of individual businessmen in both directions;

Promoting the exchange of high level political delegations and utilising such visits to endorse and enhance our ongoing endeavours to strengthen bilateral relations in all fields;

Utilising IT as a marketing tool through the websites of our Embassies and the Department of Foreign Affairs, which are linked to other relevant websites;

Participating in international Trade and Tourism Fairs and Exhibitions;

Facilitate relations with Organised Trade and Industry through relevant Chambers of Commerce and Industry;

Arrange trade and tourism seminars;

Utilising our assets such as our rich and diverse cultural heritage and our expertise in fields such as reconciliation, conservation and mining as marketing tools;

Utilising President Mbeki’s vision of the African Renaissance to counter Afro-Pessimism and mobilise support for the aims of NEPAD, keeping in mind of course that most of these countries are in competition with Africa for Official Development Assistance and Foreign Direct Investment from Europe.


Area of Jurisdiction of the Chief Directorate: Central and Eastern Europe, South-Western and Central Asian States (25 Countries)

Countries of Central Europe: (All members of the Visegrad Group)

Czech Republic – Central Europe;
Hungary – Central Europe;
Poland – Central Europe;
Slovakia – Central Europe;
{The Visegrad Four is an unofficial name given to the four above-mentioned Central European post communist countries. The group of three was called the Visegrad Troika and the Four is the result of the split of the Czech and Slovak Federal Republic in 1993.

The name of this grouping was chosen during a meeting of the Presidents of the Czech/Slovak Federation’s, Vaclav Havel; Hungary’s Arpad Gönz; and Poland’s Lech Walesa at an event held at the north Hungarian city of Visegrad on 15 February 1991. At this meeting the Presidents signed a declaration on close co-operation between their three (today four) countries on their way to European Union integration}.

Countries of Eastern Europe:

Russian Federation – spans Central and Eastern Europe and Northern Asia – Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) member;
Belarus – Eastern Europe – CIS member;
Moldova – Eastern Europe – CIS member;
Ukraine – Eastern Europe – CIS member;
Albania – South-eastern Europe;
Bosnia and Herzegovina – South-eastern Europe;
Bulgaria – South-eastern Europe;
Croatia – South-eastern Europe;
Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY) – South-eastern Europe;
Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) – South-eastern Europe;
Romania – South-eastern Europe;
Slovenia – South-eastern Europe.
Countries of South-Western Asia

Armenia – South-western Asia – CIS member;
Georgia – South-western Asia CIS member;
Turkey – Europe and South-western Asia.
Countries of Central Asia

Azerbaijan – CIS member;
Kazakhstan – CIS member;
Kyrgyzstan – CIS member;
Tajikistan – CIS member;
Turkmenistan – CIS member;
Uzbekistan – CIS member.

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2003 Department of Foreign Affairs, Republic of South Africa