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The report published today shows an extra €1.3 billion income for small and medium-sized enterprises, which received support through the European Union’s EU4Business initiative in 2019. Almost 80,000 companies in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine received assistance and managed to create over 117,000 new jobs.

Brussels, 25 February 2021 – 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 2020 report provides detailed information of EU assistance across all three priority areas of the programme: access to finance, business development services and the business enabling environment. In 2019, the EU disbursed €187.7 million to support a total of nearly 80,000 SMEs, a third of which are owned by women. This resulted in over 117,000 new jobs and €1.3 billion in extra income generated by EU-supported SMEs in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine.

"Our support to SMEs in the Eastern Partnership countries through the EU4Business initiative has been growing steadily throughout the years. It delivers exceptional results, benefiting businesswomen and ‑men, and workers alike. SMEs are the backbone of the region’s economy; supporting their resilience will ensure we build back better after the COVID-19 pandemic and foster socio-economic recovery", highlighted Lawrence Meredith, Director for Neighbourhood East & Institution Building, DG NEAR, European Commission

Access to Finance

About 5,700 SMEs received financial support in the form of loans, totalling almost €504 million, through national partner financial institutions. The average loan size was about €88,600. The EU4Business website gives insight into particular results in the access to finance area and showcases human stories of entrepreneurs who benefited from loans or grants, such as a group of Moldovan honey-makers upgrading their production or the Azerbaijani family who started their dried fruit business from scratch in less than a year.

Business Development Services

About €86 million was allocated to help EaP SMEs develop their professional skills in 2019, which is 46% of the total sum disbursed. Around 72,000 SMEs received support with business development services, and 796 business support organisations were trained. Support from EU4Business spans a variety of sectors, from helping Ukrainian blueberry growers go co-op to doubling the customer base of a Belarusian children’s clothing brand.

Business-Enabling Environment

In addition, the EU disbursed about €34 million to improve the business environment. With this support, 456 government institutions, including policymakers, regulators, and enforcement agencies, were able to improve their capacity, and more than 700 laws, regulations, and procedures were reformed. Impressive stories stand behind these figures, such as an innovative business centre in Armenia helping SMEs grow or a Georgian ChatBot keeping businesses informed during the pandemic.

“The 2020 report includes new indicators and dimensions for data gathering and comprehensive comparisons among instruments and countries,” EU4Business team leader Mark Hellyer explains. “It fully reflects the results of the EU’s support for Eastern Partnership countries and groups data, not by project, but by type of support and impact. This allows us to highlight, compare, and analyse the results for each country, and to understand the relationship between implemented projects and the financial performance of SMEs.”

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the EU has continued to support businesses in the Eastern Partnership with projects like the Eastern Partnership Solidarity Programme, which has been launched to target the most affected groups of the population with sub-grants to smaller local organisations. A new €120 million support programme has also been introduced to help SMEs, including the self-employed and others, to have easier access to credit and boost their businesses following the crisis. Over €200 million of existing credit lines and grants are available for SMEs in local currency through the EU4Business Initiative.

About EU4Business

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.

Please find below:

Find out more:

For more information, please contact the EU4Business team:

  • Olga Seleznova, Communications expert, EU4Business Facility

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