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EU4Business Programme – Ukraine

May 20, 2016

In April 2014 an entry appeared highlighting the absence of preparation for the implementation of the as then unsigned (let alone ratified) Association Agreement/DCFTA between the EU and Ukraine as far as the Ukrainians were concerned.

A year later in February 2015, post-signing (and ratification) of the agreement, the issue was revisited noting the continuing lack of information to SMEs in particular when it came to compliance with EU standards and assistance with EU market entry.

Both entries contained the following – “For those that are looking westward and desire greater integration, it is surely time to show just how attainable that actually is – in practical and tangible everyday ways.

One example was that of trade and Ukrainian products that already meet EU standards.

Somewhere between 20 – 30% of Ukrainian products already meet, and another 10% or so with simple changes to things like packaging, would meet, EU standards (not to mention ISOs).

Thus EU standards are not only achievable but have already been achieved by certain producers big and small across several market sectors – and yet nobody has produced a consolidated list that publicises what has already been achieved and is easily identifiable to a Ukrainian public that also buys those products.

Why not?

Would it not show quite clearly that European integration is not a pipe dream, but is something not only achievable, it is actually underway in practical and tangible terms?

Is it not an easy public relations win, psychologically fortifying for the believers, irrefutable for the detractors, and also cheap to do?

Considering the tens of thousands of spam commercial comments this blog gets advertising all and sundry each and every year – why, in all the years it has been running, has there never once been a comment offering/advertising a method of attaining EU standards?

Is there a campaign or programme to help Ukrainian businesses over the compliance line? 

If it is policy to talk the talk in an effort to make Ukraine walk the walk – why is it that those that can be held up as examples of success with regard European integration/standardisation aren’t?

As of the time of writing, more than 2 years since the initial entry, and almost 6 months after the Association Agreement/DCFTA became operational, access to such information, actual assistance in compliance and market entry is still, to be entirely blunt, nothing short of woeful for Ukrainian SMEs.

Undoubtedly that information is “out there” for those Ukrainian SMEs prepared to spend a lot of effort finding it – and a lot of time then trying to understand it.  What does the “New European Approach” mean?  Is it a way of making EU regulation flexible toward innovation, and if so, how?.  How to create “conformity declarations”?  When to involve an EU “Notified Body”?  Where to find an EU “Notified Body” if and when they were required?  What exactly are“Assumptions of conformity” and liabilities if products fail?

Who has the primary responsibility in clarifying such issues (and many others) for the bewildered Ukrainian SME?  Does the Ukrainian government have primary responsibility?  Does the EU have at the very least a requirement of goodwill, if not some responsibility, to effectively communicate what needs to be done for those searching for, and reaching out for, that needed assistance for EU standards compliance and market entry assistance?

ebrd

Lo it has come to pass, almost 6 months since the DCFTA became operational, and more than 2 years since this blog raised such basic preparatory questions, that the Ukrainian Government, EU and EBRD signed an agreement whereby the EU and EBRD will provide approximately EUR 28 million for business advice, information, educational and other support to SMEs in Ukraine under EU4Business program.

“The purpose of EU4Business initiative, to support creating jobs in Ukrainian business by developing small and medium-sized enterprises, new skills, and support their plans for the biggest neighboring market exports, ie EU common market with over 500 million consumers.  We combine efforts with our long-term partner the EBRD in order to significantly increase our support for small business in Ukraine and to help various companies to use the opportunities that emerged as a result of the creation of the DCFTA with the EU. We are determined to help local companies to become the driving force of economic growth in the regions of Ukraine and to compete successfully in world markets.” – EU Ambassador Tombinsky 20th May 2016

Quite – but would it not have been more timely to have done this prior to 1st January when the agreement became operational?

How much further along the road of compliance, certification (where needed) and preparation for market entry would many Ukrainian SMEs be if such information and assistance had been accessible 2 years ago when such issues were first raised by the blog when it was absolutely clear that the AA/DCFTA would be signed posthaste by then President-in-waiting Poroshenko?

Perhaps there are good reasons for such a delay, though it is difficult to identify any insofar as access (and promotion) of information and assistance is concerned.  (Financing/loans etc may be slightly different.)

Opening 2 new EBRD offices in Odessa and Kharkiv to compliment those in Kyiv and Lviv is a very welcome step when it comes to disseminating much sought after information, guidance, and funding access, as are the 15 (presumably non-EBRD institution) business support centres across the nation also to be financed.  (Hopefully judicial reform and the prevalence of rule of law in particular with regard to property rights will occur before SMEs benefitting from the EU4Business programme become prey to “raiders” and other nefarious interests/activities.)

Nevertheless, a reader may ponder why there is still no prominent and/or promoted (to the point of annoying if necessary) on-line or TV campaign to disseminate even the most basic information with regard to how and where to find preparatory information/assistance before those looking to EU markets begin darkening the doors of the two new EBRD offices, – or 15 business support centres – with a business plan that is nothing short of being scribbled hurriedly on the back of a cigarette packet and/or having absolutely no idea of what they are to actually comply with (if anything) when turning up.

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