By Daniel Hunter
The European Commission has adopted a programme to support Small and Medium Sized enterprises (SMEs) and trade opportunities in the countries of the Eastern Partnership (EaP) region.
“Our Eastern neighbours have been hit hard by the economic crisis. Small and medium sized enterprises can play a key role in generating jobs and economic growth because they respond quickly to opportunities created by the market. It is therefore our crucial task to support small businesses in the Eastern Partnership region”, said Commissioner for Enlargement and Neighbourhood Policy Štefan Füle.
As one of the flagship initiatives of the Eastern Partnership, the programme covers following activities:
Support to partner countries’ institutions to put in place and implement policy and legislative reforms in support of SMEs. This activity will build on the EU-financed assessment carried out in 2012 on the Progress in the implementation of the Small Business Act for Europe in the EaP countries, which showed that practices vary between countries but generally improvements are required in all areas (e.g. the regulatory framework and policy making, access to finance, procurement, women entrepreneurship, green economy, etc.)
Extension of the East-Invest project, which supports Business Support organisations in the EaP countries and promotes trade opportunities between European and EaP companies. It will be implemented through a collaboration of the three EU Business Representation Organisations - Eurochambers, Business Europe and EUAPME (Union Européenne de l'Artisanat et des Petites et Moyennes Entreprises).
Strengthening auditing and reporting capacity of SMEs’ to improve their access to financing in the EaP countries. This activity mirrors a similar programme implemented with success in the Western Balkan by the Centre for Financial Reporting Reforms, part of the World Bank.
The overall value of the new business support programme for the Eastern Partnership countries is €10 million and the project is expected to start in the second half of this year.