The Eastern Partnership aims to deepen political exchange and economic integration between the EU and Eastern European partner countries (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine). The Directorate-General (DG) for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs is in charge of Platform 2 of the Partnership which deals with economic integration and convergence with EU policies, the SME (small and medium-sized enterprise) Panel and the Trade Panel on Technical Regulations and Standardisation.
The Eastern Partnership was launched in 2009. It is an effort by the EU and its Eastern European partners to help promote political and economic reforms, and support efforts of the countries in the region to move closer to the EU. At its basis lies a shared commitment to international law and fundamental values, including democracy, the rule of law and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, as well as to market economy, sustainable development and good governance. It is part of the EU Neighbourhood Policy.
The Eastern Partnership works through bilateral and multilateral tracks. 4 thematic Platforms which meet twice a year are the main tool of the multilateral track.
DG Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs coordinates and chairs Platform 2, which is the broadest platform covering many sectorial policies. The policies and planned activities are set out in the Work Programme (2014-2017) and include:
The 12th meeting took place on 12 November 2014.
The 13th meeting took place on 23 April 2015 in Brussels.
The 14th meeting took place on 2 December 2015 in Brussels.
The 15th meeting took place on 12 May 2016 in Brussels.
The 16th meeting took place on 6 December 2016 Brussels.
The 17th meeting is scheduled for April/May 2017 in Brussels.
A dedicated Business Development Panel (formerly SME Panel) is part of Platform 2. It was launched in 2010 to support SME and private sector development in partner countries. Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the EaP region have the potential to make a significant contribution to job creation – and to drive economic growth and development. However, SMEs face many challenges which prevent them from maximising their full potential such as:
The main purpose of the Business Development Panel is policy dialogue between participants in order to promote a modern and competitive economy. Partner countries exchange best practices and concrete support measures for enterprises, particularly SMEs, between each other and with EU Member States. This dialogue also aims to strengthen economic integration within the region and with the EU on a governmental, as well as on a business level. The Panel is particularly directed towards government officials of the partner countries, business and SME associations.
The Panel is also the umbrella to discuss the EU4Business initiative which incorporates all bilateral and regional projects related to private sector and SME development in partner countries.
EU4Business works with the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and the European Training Foundation (ETF) to help EaP countries develop effective policies for SMEs. The SME Policy Index: Eastern Partner Countries 2016 assesses the implementation of the Small Business Act for Europe in partner countries, and offers policymakers and other stakeholders a framework to assess progress in designing and implementing effective SME policies. Dedicated policy roadmaps for each country guide the future development and implementation of SME policies. Business support organisations can monitor SME policymaking in their respective countries via this tool.
One specific dimension of EU4Business is to help develop the auditing and reporting systems of small and medium-sized businesses. The World Bank Centre for Financial Reporting Reform runs this programme called Strengthening Auditing and Reporting (STAREP).
The EBRD’s Small Business Support (SBS) programme provides tailor-made services to individual companies. For instance, it helps companies meet the required technical standards and provides advice on how to run a business in an efficient way, apply best practices, and prepare good business plans. SBS can also provide advice on how to grow a successful small business to achieve higher turnover and generate increased employment.
EU4Business’ East Invest programme helps companies and business support associations (BSOs) across the Eastern partner region to acquire the skills and adopt practices they need to improve their competitiveness in the EU market and beyond. Thanks to the East Invest programme, strong networks have been established between BSOs from the EaP countries and Chambers of Commerce from all EU countries.
EU4Business helps companies access finance through the EBRD, the European Investment Bank (EIB) and the German Development Bank (KfW). These institutions provide loans to SMEs generally via local banks using a large range of instruments to improve the financial condition of companies. EU support is, for example, used for guarantee and risk-sharing schemes, local currency solutions and incentive schemes. It is also used to provide technical assistance to improve the way the banking sector functions, and to advise local banks in EaP countries to better serve SME clients. In addition, a special DCFTA Facility for SMEs has been set up for Georgia, the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine, which signed an Agreement on a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area with the EU as part of a wider Association Agreement.
Within the framework of Platform 2, DG Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs also organises annual panels on subjects related to the reform of technical regulation systems. These meetings are an integral part of the Eastern Partnership's Trade Panel and focus on:
These meetings provide information on the development of EU policies. They also allow for an exchange of information and best practices between EU countries and Eastern European partner countries on dedicated questions of the reform agenda.