IN THE SPOTLIGHT
First Eastern Partnership Business Forum was held in Sopot
The First Eastern Partnership Business Forum (EPBF) was convened as a side event to the Warsaw Summit of the Eastern partnership and in conjunction with the European Forum of New Ideas organized in Sopot, Poland from 28th till 30th September, 2011.
The Forum was organized by the Polish oranization of employers Lewiathan in cooperation with MFA, Business Europe and other organizations. It was attended by high political representatives – State Secretary of the Polish MFA, ministr of economy of Georgia, vice-minister of economy of Ukraine, President of the Ukraine Union of Employers and former Prime-minister, Vice-President of the European Economic and Social Committee, representatives of Business Europe, Eurochambres and business representative organizations from the EU and EaP countries and entrepreneurs.
The Forum dealt with several issues among them the position of the small and medium sized enterprises in partner countries that does not correspond to the important position those SMEs play in the EU. Representative of OECD presented the results of their study about the role of SMEs in EaP countries with recommendations how to change the not favourable situation.
The impact of the DCFTA that partner counries will conclude (Ukraine hopefully before the end of this year) with the EU on the different branchies of their industries and agriculture since there will be an increased competition on their markets was at the forefront of interest of participants. It is necessary that the partner countries prepare for this effect and start the transformation as soon as possible. With the advance of the legal convergence with the EU rules the countries will also gain the access to the EU market so they need to comply with the EU standards. Other issues of major importance are related to the energy – security of energy supply, energy efficiency, transit of oil and gaz.
The participants called the EU authorities to increase the allocations for partner countries to enable them to adapt to the EU standards. In this connection the requirement concerning the strengthening of the business representative organizations was confirmed with demand for funding of their capacity building. Business Europe is preparing a special project that would enable the employers organizations of partner countries to be involved into BE acitivities since unlike the Eurochambres where the chambers from partner countries can become members BE statutes do not allow this.
The representatives of Ukraine stressed the need for modernization of their economy that will not be possible without massive investments from the EU. Georgian Minister confirmed that Georgia is firmly oriented on the EU and is making fast improvements in their fight against corruption and establishment of business friendly environment. The talks on DCFTA will start soon with Georgia and Moldova. Azerbaijan has an advantageous financial and economic situation thanks to the oil and gaz income but it wishes to develop more the non-oil sectors.
Special panel of the EPBF was dedicated to the review of different European and international programmes for the EaP partner countries, including the Eurochambres run East Invest, SME flagship initiative, OECD project for better administration of pro-SMEs policies, EBRD projects etc.
It was anounced that the Eastern Partnership Business Forum will become a permanent platform for exchange of information and contacts between the EU and partner countries entrepreneurs and administrations. This decision was also confirmed by the Declaration of Warsaw summit.
Mr. Ivan Voles intervened as the coordinator of the working group 2 of the EaP Civil Society Forum, member of the Steering Committee. He called for the necessity to involve also the CSF in the EPBF since it was one of our recommendations already at the first meeting of the CSF in Brussels in 2009. He also reminded about the necessity to involve the social partners – employers and trade unions in the future activities of the EPBF and to pay a special attention to the social dialogue as a tool to avoid the social conflicts due to the realization of the structural reforms.