Working Lunch: “Ukraine’s Accession to the EU Single Market Program: Looking into SME Landscape and the Needs of Entrepreneurs in Ukraine”

By Lilia Heitz

On Tuesday March 14th, SME Europe, in cooperation with the Union of Employers and Entrepreneurs and the European Enterprise Alliance, organised a Lunch Debate “Ukraine’s Accession to the EU Single Market Program: Looking into SME Landscape and the Needs of Entrepreneurs in Ukraine”. The lunch was hosted by Ivan STEFANEC MEP. The panel was represented by Svitlana MYKHAILOVSKA, Deputy Director, EBA – European Business Association; Nataliya KOZAK, Chief Strategy Officer, Impact Force; Marcin NOWACKI, EESC Rapporteur to the opinion on the EU-Ukraine solidarity lanes; and was moderated by Dr. Horst HEITZ, Executive Director of SME Europe. The debate was joined by Abir AL-SAHLANI MEP; Maria GRAPINI MEP; Henna VIRKKUNEN MEP, Jörgen WARBORN MEP and Riho TERRAS MEP. 

In her statement, Svitlana MYKHAILOVSKA from EBA stressed the need of established mechanisms facilitating UA businesses relocated to EU to maintain ties with Ukraine as taxpayers. Similar mechanisms are urgently required for European companies still operating in Russia. She believes that assurances and financial insentives would motivate EU businesses to leave Russian market. She also mentioned current initiatives, such as Investment Map of Ukraine, developed by EBA, that popularise information and assist EU businesses willing to participate in reconstruction projects in Ukraine.

Nataliya KOZAK from Impact Force, stressed the importance to primarely focus on sustainability, when it comes to Ukraine’s war time survival and revival. She quoted the overall negative business sentiment in the country (30 from 100) due to inability to increase turnovers and create jobs driven by purchasing power of UA customers as well as ability to access short-term capital. However, still a remarcable persentage of UA businesses reached the same levels of turnover as in 2021 or see growth. Ukrainian entrepreneurs are optimistic about 2023: 45% expect growth while another 25% expect the same level of turnover as 2022. Elimination of corruption, improved access to cheaper loans and tax reform are among most requested interventions of UA government by business sector. Ms. KOZAK mentioned the importance for Ukrainian entrepreneurs to participate to programs in EU markets and collaborate at SME level. Also, the very much needed collaboration at policy level to inspire Ukrainian regulators create supportive environment to grow entrepreneurship in Ukraine based on effective best practices from EU markets.

Marcin NOWACKI, EESC Rapporteur on EU-UA solidarity lanes, stressed the importance to prolongue the EU Single Market access for Ukraine and offer UA companies training on EU certification and standartisation, as well as co-finance the process of gaining certification. These are the essentials that would help more Ukrainian exporters enter the EU Single Market. Among existing bottlenecks in mutual exports, Mr. NOWACKI mentioned logistics above all. As Europe became the largest traider of Ukrainian grain, EU railway terminals require investment. Also, there is the need for mechanisms of EU-wide insurances and guarantees on road transport and loads for EU traders operating in Ukraine. Mr. NOWACKI emphasized the leading role of Poland in internationalisation of UA business.