On October 28-30, 2019, a delegation of EU high-ranking officials visits Mariupol to participate in the RE:THINK Mariupol Investment Forum. Since the beginning of this year, the EU increased its support for the Azov region to help mitigate the impact of Russia’s destabilizing actions. A new specific step is the opening of the EU Projects Office in Mariupol, which was first announced during the EU-Ukraine Summit in July 2019, and became a special event during the Forum.
The European delegation is headed by Christian Danielsson, Director General for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations, who is accompanied by Peter Wagner, Head of the Support Group for Ukraine, Jean-Erik de Zagon, Head of the Permanent Representation of the European Investment Bank (EIB) in Ukraine, and the Ambassador Matti Maasikas, Head of EU Delegation to Ukraine.
Mr. Danielsson joined the opening of the RE:THINK Investment Forum in the morning and later took part in the launch of the EU Projects Office in Mariupol together with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
“The EU Projects Office ensures the physical presence of the European Union in Mariupol while being a contact point for residents of the Azov region. The Office will serve as a hub for EU events in the region and help transform Mariupol and the rest of this region of Ukraine into a better place to live, study or run a business,” Christian Danielsson said during the opening ceremony.
The EU Projects Office in Mariupol will present two EU flagship programmes: the U-LEAD with Europe: Ukraine Local Empowerment, Accountability and Development Programme co-funded by the EU and EU Member States such as Germany, Denmark, Poland, Sweden and Estonia, as well as the EU Anti-Corruption Initiative in Ukraine (EUACI). These programmes will further support and enhance the processes of decentralization and counteracting corruption in Mariupol and throughout the Azov region. This activity will be a tangible and constant signal of EU solidarity while strengthening the reform agenda in the country. Other EU programmes may be integrated into the Office work later.
A special event organized by the EU as part of the Mariupol Investment Forum was the Entrepreneurial Journey across EU4Business Programmes that brought together more than 130 regional start-up entrepreneurs to make them aware of business creation, development and support opportunities offered by the EU. This event is one of the key events taking place in the region during the European Entrepreneurship Week in Ukraine in 2019 and organized with the assistance of the Better Regulation Delivery Office (BRDO).
“The EU is committed to support entrepreneurship development and improvement of the business climate in Ukraine. Our EU4Business initiative also provides better access to information and funding for small and medium-sized enterprises – we want to make sure that existing and potential entrepreneurs in the Azov region are aware of these opportunities and benefit from them,” Ambassador Maasikas said.
During the event, participants were introduced to support opportunities at different stages of entrepreneurship development: how to start and register a business, improve professional skills, obtain financial resources and start exporting to the EU and world markets with the support of EU4Business programmes. The BRDO also presented #StartBusinessChallenge as a platform of step-by-step instructions to register own business.
“Our platform provides a simple and clear answer to the main question of entrepreneurs: what should I do to fulfill all the state requirements to start and run my own business and work in peace? We help SMEs to perform a ‘homework’ required to create a successful business,” the BRDO Head Oleksiy Dorohan noted, presenting the information service.
As part of their visit program, Prime Minister Oleksiy Honcharuk, Mr. Danielsson and Mr. de Zagon will also open the Mariupol Library renovated through the EIB Early Recovery Programme. The European Investment Bank (EIB), an EU banking institution, has provided a loan of 190,000 euros for the library reconstruction. In addition to the library, this space will accommodate a conference room and an IT hub that will be used by the SocialBoost non-grovernmental organization.
“A number of important infrastructure projects that we are currently implementing in Mariupol are aimed at addressing the most pressing challenges of the region – from connection to the Network to providing access to clean drinking water. The renovation of this library is equally important, and it is aimed at ensuring a prosperous and successful future of the region. This major renovation has transformed this institution into a modern electronic library with unlimited opportunities for the local community to access various sources of information, education and new knowledge,” Mr. Jean-Erik de Zagon said.
At the end of his visit on October 30, Mr. Danielsson will open a new Administrative Services Center (CNAP) in the village Komyshuvakha of Zaporizhzhya region. The Center was established with the support of the U-LEAD with Europe Programme funded by the EU. On the same day, Mr. Wagner will meet with students from Berdyansk State Pedagogical University, representatives of local authorities and civil society organizations.