On 14 September, the European Commission published its annual report on the EU4Business initiative, covering all EU support to SMEs in the six Eastern Partnership (EaP) countries. The 2021 report provides detailed information on EU assistance across the programme’s three priority areas: access to finance, business development services and the business-enabling environment.
According to the report, in 2020, the EU provided support a total to nearly 72,000 SMEs, a third of which are owned by women. This resulted in over 50,000 new jobs and €1 billion in extra income generated by EU-supported SMEs in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine.
"In 2020, the budget allocated to the EU4Business initiative grew significantly, translating into exceptional results for a time of crisis, benefiting business owners and workers alike,” said Lawrence Meredith, Director for Neighbourhood East and Institution Building, DG NEAR, European Commission. “The ambitious Economic and Investment Plan that we are putting forward for the next five years will contribute to stimulate jobs and growth further and bring prosperity to the Eastern Partnership region. It will help to build back better by supporting a green and inclusive socioeconomic recovery, strengthening resilience and further integrating our economies.”
“Despite the challenges, the EU increased the budgets available to support SMEs by 12.5% under the EU4Business Initiative and in turn, this allowed partners to support one in ten SMEs across the EaP,” said EU4Business Facility team leader, Mark Hellyer, said.
The report also highlights that during 2020 5,400 SMEs received financial support in the form of loans, around 65,000 SMEs were provided with business development services, and around 1,000 business support organisations were trained. In addition, the EU supported 158 government institutions, including policymakers, regulators, and enforcement agencies, helping to improve their capacity, and reforming more than 1,138 laws, regulations, and procedures.
The report shows that the European Union reacted swiftly to the COVID-19 pandemic and together with its partners and Member States succeeded in mobilising a further €100 million programme to support SMEs to access credit more easily; €200 million in existing credit lines and grants to SMEs in local currency; €500 million available for the EU Neighbourhood through the European Fund for Sustainable Development, and €1.45 billion in EU macro-financial assistance to support governments.
EU4Business is an umbrella initiative that includes all EU support to small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) in the Eastern Partnership countries – Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine. EU4Business supports SME growth by improving access to finance and business development services, and by promoting better business regulation.
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