1 – 3 June 2021, Brussels

Working Group 2 online meeting

This year’s meeting of Working Group 2 (WG2) – Economic integration and convergence with EU policies – was held online between 1-3 June 2021. In total, six online sessions were organised, including three policy debates on digital transformation, trade and economic integration, and investment and access to finance for SMEs. The online policy debates and the meeting with EU experts were open to all WG2 members and delegates.

One of the priorities of this year’s WG2 meeting was to offer space for relevant policy updates from the EaP countries. Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine made significant progress with regards to the implementation of the Association Agreement with the EU. The non-signatory countries also advance in terms of economic development and legislative approximation with the EU. However, all EaP countries face multiple challenges related to the impact of COVID-19 on the economy, especially on SMEs. At the same time, the pandemic boosted the digital tranformation of countries’ economies.

During the policy session on Digital transformation, Māra Jākobsone (EU4Digital) mentioned that, based on the lessons learnt from the current crisis, governments, businesses, civil society organisations should adopt coordinated actions and invest in the priorities marking the current “Digital Decade” (2021-2030): digital skills, secure and sustainable digital infrastructures, digital transformation of businesses, and digitalisation of public services.

Throughout the policy session on Investment and access to finance, Catarina Bjorlin Hansen (EBRD) highlighted that women-entrepreneurs have less access to finance and face more impediments in trying to access finance than their male counterparts. The same difficulty is shared by other vulnerable groups, including young people. There is a need for capacity building in terms of financial literacy for women, youth, and people living in rural areas. Tarik Sahovic (World Bank) raised three elements that could help SMEs in their post-COVID-19 recovery: 1) less fiscal and administrative burden for SMEs; 2) digital, digital, digital; 3) better access to finance.

Read the full report of the meeting here.

Available for download