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Eastern Partnership Business Forum promotes digital economies and innovation

More than 500 business leaders, government officials, policy makers from the European Union and from Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine come together to debate on the ‘Digital Economy: Innovative Platform for Transparent Borderless Business’.

The Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations, Johannes Hahn, said: "The Business Forum today is a great opportunity to discuss challenges of modernising economies and societies in the Eastern Partnership. Small businesses have a key role to play and the EU actively works with partner countries and international financial institutions to ensure the right business environment. Through the EU4Business initiative in particular, the EU is providing increasing support for them to grow, export, innovate and adapt to a digital economy."

The forum will serve as a platform for participants to discuss how to redefine governance processes and create a basis for transparent economies. Discussions will also focus on cross-border trade, logistics, e-commerce and financing for international business.

After the Association Agreements entered into full force, the business exchanges between the EU and Georgia, the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine have substantially intensified. Moreover, businessmen from these three countries can now travel to Europe visa free to explore new market opportunities and develop business partnerships. The agreements are also beneficial to the EU Member States, exports to the EaP countries have increased from €16.3 billion in 2004 up to €33.1 billion in 2014.

Under the EU4Business initiative, the EU provides access to finance, supports exports to new markets and offers know-how for growth to small businesses in all six partner countries, in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine. Since 2009 the EU has supported 100,000 enterprises and helped create more than 10,000 new jobs in the region.

In the margins of the event an agreement is signed between the EU and the European Investment Bank (EIB). This new project, part of EU4Business, will allow EIB to provide its first local currency loans in Ukraine. Three more EU backed guarantee agreements will be signed by EIB and European Investment Fund (EIF) with local banks to respond to the urgent needs of Georgian, Moldovan and Ukrainian businesses.

The External Investment Plan, presented at the Business Forum on the 27 October, is another EU instrument for increasing economic growth and stability. Its innovative guarantee will make it easier to invest in key sectors of the economy in the Eastern Partnership countries. In the margins of the event, 150 business will participate in the B2B session, expected to establish new joint ventures and business partnerships.

The EaP Business Forum is held every two years as a side event to the Eastern Partnership Summit, which this year will take place on November 24 in Brussels.