Welcome to the first issue of the EU4Business Small and Medium-sized Enterprise (SME) newsletter. Keep up-to-date with news on the SME sector and the achievements of the EU4Business initiative by subscribing online.

EU4Business highlights

Armenia played host to the EU4Business Week, involving all six Eastern Partnership countries, in October. The EU4Business website was launched during the Week, which also included conferences and workshops on fostering sustainable development, innovation and attracting investment. Meanwhile, the EU has announced new assistance packages to boost SME competitiveness in Azerbaijan, private sector development in Belarus and innovation financing for Ukraine. The Women in Business programme was launched in Moldova and a new online platform for winemakers is being set up in Georgia.


Competitiveness lies at the heart of reform

The six Eastern Partnership countries are all members of the Eurasia region of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and as such participated in the 3rd OECD Eurasia Week, held in Paris from 22 to 24 November. They are also all members of the OECD Eurasia Competitiveness Roundtable, which also met during the Paris week and acts as barometer of the progress they have made implementing reforms to strengthen their economies

Between 2000 and 2015, Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita in the Eurasia region, which includes the six Eastern Partnership countries in the EU4Business programme, has more than doubled, and, in terms of reform advancement, many Eurasian countries are singled out among the star performers in the World Bank’s latest Doing Business report. This is the positive note on which the OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría began his address to open the 3rd OECD Eurasia Week in Paris on 22 November.

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Improving the business climate

The European Union (EU) is ready to assist Armenia in implementing economic policy reforms, says ambassador

The EU will assist Armenia in implementing the new government’s economic policy reforms, the Head of the European Union Delegation to Armenia, Ambassador Piotr Switalski, told the International Economic Congress on 20 October.

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EU4Business Week

EU4Business Week, held in Armenia in October, highlighted EU support for SMEs in the six Eastern Partnership countries as a whole

Armenia played host to a series of key events and activities highlighting the EU’s role in supporting economic development, innovation and business in the Eastern Partnership countries, during the EU4Business Week held in Yerevan from 24 to 28 October.

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Public-private dialogue for reform

East Invest 2 conference participants sought to create a position paper for improving the business environment in Eastern Partnership countries

The East Invest 2 Annual Partner Conference held on 27 October provided a unique opportunity for the Business Support Organisations involved in EU4Business to get an overview of the EU's East Invest 2 project activities and their role in fostering economic cooperation between EU and Eastern Partnership countries. The event also enabled businesses to find new cooperation partners and share their experiences.

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EU announces €13.5 m package for Azerbaijan

The new funding aims to continue support for economic diversification in the areas of financial, economic and judicial governance and boost SME competitiveness and export possibilities

The EU has announced a €13.5 million targeted assistance package to enhance the competitiveness of, and export opportunities for, small and medium-sized businesses in Azerbaijan, as well as improving the business environment by assisting key government institutions.

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EU is Azerbaijan's main trade partner

Forty-seven percent of all Azerbaijan’s trade was with the EU last year, says the country's European Integration Minister

Azerbaijan is playing an important role in assuring Europe's energy security and is maintaining strong cooperation with the European Union through investment and exchange programmes, such as twinning and the Technical Assistance and Information Exchange Instrument (TAIEX). This was the observation of Shahin Mustafayev, Chairman of the State Commission for Azerbaijan's European Integration, during a meeting with MEPs from the EU-Azerbaijan Parliamentary Cooperation Committee.

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Members of the European Parliament visit Baku

The 13th meeting of the EU-Azerbaijan Parliamentary Cooperation Committee was held in Baku on 20 September

Azerbaijan is strongly committed to pursuing its cooperation with the European Union, stressed Samad Seyidov, chairman of Azerbaijan's international and inter-parliamentary relations committee, at the EU-Azerbaijan Parliamentary Cooperation Committee held in Baku in September.

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Belarus plans to expand SME sector

State programme to increase jobs in SME sector to over 41% of country’s total workforce by 2020

The Belarus Government implemented Decree No. 870 on 25 October, introducing amendments to the 2016-2020 state programme for SMEs, approved by the Decision No. 149 of the Belarus Council of Ministers of 23 February 2016.

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EBRD implements 245 SME consultancy projects

The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) says it has implemented 245 projects in Belarus that provide consultancy services to SMEs

In the framework of its SME consultancy programme in Belarus, the EBRD not only provides full administrative support, but also covers up to 90% of the cost of consultancy services, thanks to donor funding from the EU and other institutions.

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New EU support for private sector development

The European Union has announced the doubling of the bilateral assistance package to Belarus to €29 million in 2016

The funding package has doubled from €14.5 million in 2015 to €29 million in 2016, with the aim of boosting private sector development and strengthening institutions in the country.

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Sustainable energy and women entrepreneurs

The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) has launched new credit facilities worth €10 million to support sustainable energy projects and women entrepreneurs

The Bank is stepping up its investments in Belarus by extending new credit lines of up to €10 million to Belinvestbank.

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Better auditing through regional dialogue

Two workshops organised by the World Bank, to improve audit quality in the six Eastern Partnership countries, were held in Minsk in October

The first regional workshop took place from 10 to 11 October and focused on the practical application of specific provisions of the European Union’s Auditing Directive, and their effects on the accountability of economies and governments. The second workshop from 11 to 12 October dealt with professional education and addressed accounting education reforms.

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EU creates online platform for winemakers

The new database will provide a range of information on Georgian wine producers and help them to explore export opportunities in the EU

New opportunities are opening for Georgian winemakers and wine-lovers through a new EU-funded programme to spur growth in exports of Georgian wine to the EU market.

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Improving SME product quality

EU4Business, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and the Bank of Georgia have joined forces to launch a new financing facility to support local SME development

The EBRD, in partnership with the Bank of Georgia, has launched a new EBRD-EU financing facility to support local SME development, in the context of the country’s Association Agreement and Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement (DCFTA) with the EU, allowing companies to take full advantage of the opportunities offered by the DCFTA.

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Global competitiveness key for Georgian SMEs

A new financial package from the European Union is bringing new opportunities for Georgian SMEs and supporting their operations abroad

The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) has allocated a USD 50 million credit facility in the Georgian national currency, the lari, to the country’s national bank, the Bank of Georgia.

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Export-readiness training

The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) Advice for Small Businesses unit organised a two-day training course on “export readiness” in Tbilisi in October

The course, “Business Diagnostics for Export Readiness”, was held from 25 to 27 October as part of the EU4Business programme. The aim is to assist SMEs in Eastern Partnership countries in promoting their exports to EU countries by analysing export readiness and potential exportation areas.

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Agility, innovation and internationalisation

Consultants need to build their competences, exposure and networks to provide SMEs with high-quality paid services, a conference in Tbilisi heard

The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) hosted an international conference of consulting professionals in Tbilisi from 3 to 4 November, as part of the EU4Business programme. The Aim of the “Competitive Consulting 2016” conference was to assist consultants in building their competences, exposure and networks to provide high quality services that the small and medium-sized enterprise sector is ready to pay for in the long term.

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New law on SMEs enters force

Approved by the Moldovan Parliament, it defines a new legal framework for SMEs in Moldova and includes measures to stimulate the sustainable development of the sector

The new legislation, approved by the Parliament and published in the Official Gazette, will come into force in the last quarter of 2016. It replaces the current law on development of the SME sector, defining a new legal framework for micro, small and medium-sized enterprises, and includes measures to stimulate the sustainable development of the sector. It is also intended to boost SME research, development and innovation.

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COMERTBANK signs partner agreement

BC "COMERTBANK" SA is the first bank to accept the conditions proposed by ODIMM concerning the procedure for guaranteeing loans for SMEs

The Organisation for Development of Small and Medium Sized Enterprises (ODIMM) and BC "COMERŢBANK" SA have signed a new cooperation agreement which provides for simplifying and improving the procedure for granting credit guarantees to SMEs.

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Moldova moves up Doing Business rankings

Moldova has improved its position in the World Bank’s Doing Business report. The country ranks 44th out of 190 countries in the 2017 issue, moving up three positions on 2016. The ranking considers the reforms implemented up to late June 2016.

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Women in Business programme launched

Around 100 women from all districts of the country attended the launch conference of the Women in Business programme on 6 October

The Women in Business launch conference was organised by the Organisation for Development of Small and Medium Sized Enterprises (ODIMM) and was part of the "Moldova Business Week 2016” that took place from 4 to 7 October.

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Moldova Business Week proves ideal platform

The 3rd edition of the Moldova Business Week proved highly effective in promoting Moldova on the international stage

Over 1 500 representatives of companies, public administrations and development partners, 80 speakers from Moldova and abroad and 15 business events (conferences, forums, seminars and practical workshops) proved to be an effective platform to promote Moldova's image on the international stage and as a location suitable for investment.

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DCFTA and Association Agreement Handbook

Joint launch in Chisinau of books explaining the EU’s Association Agreements and Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreements with Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine, respectively

The Handbook on the Association Agreement (AA) and Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement (DCFTA) that Moldova has with the European Union was launched in Chisinau on 28 November. Two other language versions - Romanian and Russian –were also presented at the ceremony.

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Improving SME regulations in Ukraine

The FORBIZ project focuses on improving the regulatory framework for SMEs in Ukraine and strengthening government-private sector dialogue

Ukraine’s Ministry of Economic Development and Trade and the EU Delegation to Ukraine have launched FORBIZ, a leading business support project in the framework of the EU4Business initiative funded by the EU.

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Success stories @ #EUkraine

Media group 1+1 and the EU Delegation to Ukraine have launched the project #EUkraine, aimed at publicising the country’s SME success stories

The #EUkraine multimedia project, launched on 8 September, aims to support the development of and inspire Ukrainian SMEs by publicising success stories in the country, as well as data on the business environment in both Ukraine and Europe.

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€50 m financing for innovative companies

The EIF has signed an agreement with ProCredit Bank in Ukraine to finance innovative companies to the tune of €50 million

The European Investment Fund and JSC “ProCredit Bank” have signed the first agreement in the framework of the project “InnovFin” (EU finance for innovators) – an initiative supported by the European Commission, aimed at raising funds for the development of innovative projects in SMEs.

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