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. Four 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 twelfth meeting took place on 12 November 2014.
The thirteenth meeting took place on 23 April 2015 in Brussels.
The fourteenth meeting is scheduled for 2 December 2015 in Brussels.
A dedicated SME Panel is part of Platform 2. It was launched in 2010 to support the development of SMEs in partner countries, which is hindered by an inadequate regulatory and policy framework, a lack of advisory services, limited access to finance and a lack of interregional and international networking mechanisms.
One of the key issues the SME Panel deals with is the assessment of policies in Eastern European partner countries based on the Small Business Act (SBA) for Europe. The Panel is also the umbrella for the SME Flagship Initiative with a dedicated SME Flagship Strategy for the period 2014 to 2020.
The Panel is particularly directed towards government officials, the appointed SBA coordinators of the partner countries, and business and SME associations.
Support is offered on three levels:
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.
The fourteenth Trade Panel will take place in autumn 2015.