Brussels, 20 June 2020

Working Group 2 online meeting

Given the current circumstances, Working Group 2 on Economic Integration and Convergence with EU Policies held its meeting online from 15-19 June 2020. Thanks to the online format, the online policy debates and meeting with EU experts were open to all WG2 members and delegates.

The pandemic has put a lot of economic pressure on SMEs in the EaP region. SMEs in the agriculture and service sectors, including tourism, accomodation and catering services, have been hit particularly hard by the pandemic. As a result, most governments have taken active measures to alleviate the impact on small businesses. Examples of measures are low-interest loans, adjustments of tax rates for businesses and the raise of social security benefits for employees. Nevertheless, it is too early to assess the effectiveness of those policies.

Furthermore, participants discussed connectivity and the digital transformation. In this area, it is necessary to invest more in the development of the digital infrastructure. EU standards and best practices should also be adopted in the field of digitalisation.

Following the connectivity and digital transformation session, WG2 held its meeting with experts. Francesco Alfonso, Project Coordinator and Policy Analyst at the OECD Eurasia Division, presented the OECD’s efforts and policy responses to the COVID-19 crisis in the EaP region. The challenges for SMEs will include falling revenues and incomes, liquidity shortages and the rise in unemployment. The OECD suggests that there need to be more long-term policy decisions taken in order to mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 crisis. Franak Viacorka, Vice-President of Digital Communications Network, presented the necessity for businesses to focus on their digital presence, especially during a period like the pandemic. Lastly, Veronica Cretu, Governance Lead and Co-founder of Innovating Governance Association, touched on the potential of AI and its potential applications to SMEs.

Participants concluded that the current crisis could be turned into an opportunity for accelerating the digital transformation in the EaP if enough support from the EU and national governments is provided.

Available for download

  • Online Meeting Report: EaP CSF WG2 Economic Integration and Convergence with EU Policies, 15-19 June 2020