Nearly 80,000 small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the Eastern Partnership region received support through the European Union’s EU4Business initiative in 2019, generating €1.3 billion in extra income, according to the EU4Business annual report, published on 25 February.
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 nearly80,000 SMEs in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine, a third of which are owned by women. As a result, the companies created over 117,000 new jobs and generated €1.3 billion in extra income.
According to the report, 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. 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.
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.
To respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, 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.
“The 2020 report … 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,” said EU4Business team leader Mark Hellyer.
EU4Business is an umbrella initiative that supports SME growth in the Eastern Partnership countries by improving access to finance and business development services, and by promoting better business regulation.
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