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Support for small and medium-sized enterprises is a key priority for EU assistance to Ukraine

Updated: 21/11/2023

The world’s strongest economies are based on mobile, flexible, small‑ and medium‑sized businesses that are eager to grow and able to respond effectively to challenges. According to OECD data, in Ukraine, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) accounted for 99.9% of the total number of enterprises (legal entities and private entrepreneurs) in 2022 – and they proved their resilience first during the difficult COVID-19 period, and then in the devastating conditions of the Russian war. Despite dramatic changes in the business environment, Ukrainian SMEs are holding the line and stepping up their resistance:

  • More than 60% of Ukrainian entrepreneurs have endured and not closed their businesses, despite the difficulties caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine;
  • 50% of entrepreneurs have changed their businesses – 17% have reoriented to meet the needs of the country’s defence, 16% have changed their activities, and 13% have relocated;
  • Nearly 50% of businesses started during the war were started by women, and women run 28% of businesses that have remained despite the war.

The European Union has been at Ukraine’s side since the beginning of the full-scale Russian invasion, providing comprehensive military, humanitarian, financial and budgetary assistance, and helping to shape its recovery strategy.

The EU considers the revival of the economic potential of SMEs and the institutional and legislative reform of the business environment as one of the key priorities of its assistance to Ukraine in post‑war reconstruction and modernisation, in the interest of Ukrainians, and on the path to full EU membership. To this end, the EU has committed €245.21 million to support SMEs through EU4Business projects alone (as of June 2023).

“I will do my utmost to support Ukraine’s reform process as an EU candidate country,” assured Katarina Mathernova, when starting her role as the new European Union Ambassador to Ukraine. “The future of Ukraine is in our Union,” she affirmed.

EU support to Ukrainian SMEs focuses on five main areas:

  • Support in response to the war;
  • Support to Ukrainian institutions;
  • Improving legislation;
  • Developing entrepreneurship in the regions;
  • Supporting Ukraine’s reconstruction and modernisation.

However, not all entrepreneurs are aware of the opportunities offered by the European Union to Ukrainian SMEs through support programmes:

  • 45% of legal entities and 37% of individual entrepreneurs have heard of financial support, and 1 in 4 in both categories have heard of advice available through of EU-funded projects;
  • 33% of legal entities and 24% of individual entrepreneurs are aware of loans from international financial organisations;
  • 22% of SMEs and 11% of private entrepreneurs have heard of loans from EU4Business partner financial institutions.

That is why we are launching a new communication campaign, ‘Together We Are Resilient. Together We Are Europe’, to reach as many entrepreneurs and the general public as possible to inform them about:

  • How EU support for SMEs has contributed to strengthening the resilience and sustainability of SMEs and Ukraine’s socio-economic development – from support for business survival and recovery, to business relocation and start-ups;
  • The tools and opportunities for SME support that the EU offers to Ukrainian entrepreneurs – from grants, to advice on competitiveness, and access to European markets;
  • The success stories of entrepreneurs who have taken advantage of EU opportunities, which can inspire and encourage others to participate in EU SME support programmes and projects for Ukraine;
  • How the European Union supports institutional reforms and changes in Ukrainian legislation to ensure a favourable business environment and harmonisation of national rules and regulations with those of the EU.

The ‘Together We Are Resilient’ communication campaign will include the following activities:

  • Information campaigns on leading Ukrainian TV and radio channels, online publications, outdoor advertising and internet platforms;
  • Participation of experts from EU SME support projects and programmes in business events and meetings to present results and opportunities for Ukrainian SMEs;
  • A regional press tour;
  • Wide-ranging discussions on how to strengthen the role of Ukrainian businesses in the post‑war development and modernisation of Ukraine, and how to transform Ukrainian institutions and legislation in the context of the EU accession process.

The new ‘Together We Are Resilient’ communication campaign will run from October to December 2023. It will continue the pan-Ukrainian campaign #TogetherWeAreEurope, which ran in Ukraine from August 2022 to July 2023.

More information on EU programmes and projects supporting small and medium-sized enterprises in Ukraine can be found here:

EU4Business Programme (sectors, projects, grants)
Office for Business and Export Development
Support for innovation and intellectual property protection
European Cluster Collaboration Platform
Enterprise Europe Network
SME Competitiveness Programme
Ukraine Facility
Ukrainian Network for Integrity and Compliance (UNIC)
EU4Business-EBRD Credit Line

Learn more about the European Commission’s calls to support the integration of Ukrainian SMEs into the EU Internal Market: ReadyForEU.

The kick-off event of the ‘Together we will stand’ campaign was a foresight session on ‘Small and Medium-sized Enterprises in the Process of European Integration: Scenarios and Strategies’, where more than 80 representatives of entrepreneurs, government, EU-funded projects, international organisations and experts reviewed key factors affecting SME development, and identified scenarios and strategies for further development.

More photos on Flickr.com:

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The foresight session deliverables were presented at the II International Export Forum:

Another event – ‘European Research and Innovation Days’ under the EU-funded ‘New Economy of Ivano-Frankivsk’ project (NEF) – contributed to moulding a vision for reconstruction and modernization scenarios based on innovative solutions, expanded cooperation between business and science, and R&D commercialization. The participants emphasized the crucial role of innovation in most diverse contexts – in business, science, education, and democracy – as a precondition for Ukraine’s progress, competitiveness and successful European integration.

Assistance to SMEs in the context of the comprehensive support that the EU has provided to Ukraine since the outbreak of the large-scale Russian war, reconstruction and modernization plans, and preparations for Ukraine’s accession negotiations to the EU were discussed at the first meeting of the newly appointed European Union Ambassador to Ukraine Katarina Mathernova with leading national mass media.

More photos in the photo album.

From 13 to 17 November 2023 the European SME week, a pan-European campaign that aims to promote entrepreneurship in Europe, was held with numerous events for entrepreneurs throughout the whole continent. The European SME Week 2023 in Ukraine has been celebrating since 2018. This year’s events programme included digital campaign, thematic Euroquiz for youth and students, TV/radio programmes as well as media tour to Bucha and Zhytomyr.

On 16 November 2023 media tour for leading national and local media outlets was held in Bucha and Zhytomyr. The media tour’s keynote theme was promoting clusters and supporting local community development initiatives.

Media tour participants explored specific cases of SME projects implemented with the support of the European Union.

More photos in the photo album.

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