SPEECH FOR THE PANEL ON BUSINESS CLIMATE AND INVESTMENT OPPORTUNITIES, Support for Ukraine Conference, 28 April 2015

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1 SPEECH FOR THE PANEL ON BUSINESS CLIMATE AND INVESTMENT OPPORTUNITIES, Support for Ukraine Conference, 28 April 2015 Ministers, friends, ladies and gentlemen, Ukraine has extraordinary potential. We all know about your traditional strengths in heavy industry and in agriculture. The future is yours to design. The aim must be to make Ukraine as attractive to outside investors as, say, Poland. And that will require making changes, as Aivaras and Natalie have been saying. Ukraine's current challenging economic situation is partly due, of course, to the situation in the east. But, let me be frank: it is also due to the very poor business climate in the country since independence. Reforms are underway, but there is much more to be done. The European Union is doing more than it has ever done for a country that is not a member, with funding, with expertise. 11 billion was promised last year. 6 billion of that has been mobilised, with much of our support linked to reform conditionalities. I am happy to say that your government is indeed making efforts to meet the conditions set. You reform, we support you! To return to growth, Ukraine needs the right regulation and investment climate. And there needs to be continued progress towards a full market economy. What does it means to live in a market economy? A true market economy is one that is based on the rule of law and where there is fair and open competition. 1

2 The success of a company should be measured by its capacity to sell its products or services with a profit margin, not by its ability to secure subsidies, public procurement contracts, or regulations that exclude foreign or national competitors from the market. Public regulation is needed, for instance to enforce competition rules and avoid the abuse of dominant positions but beyond this, the logic of supply and demand should operate without public interference. That is why we are working with Aivaras on deregulation. When businesses face difficulties with the administration - tax authorities for instance - they should not have to rely on their connections inside the government or on the good will of the latter, but rather on the rule of law. Politicians should be there to decide the rules and to ensure that a framework exists for their proper implementation. No less, but no more either. Business can solve its own problems without their help, provided that courts do their job in a fair, timely and transparent manner. Rule of Law is at the top of our reform agenda with Ukraine and yesterday I was able to discuss with Pavlo Petrenko some first reform steps that must be swiftly followed by further work. Creating the right business climate is also about driving out corruption. I welcome the progress on setting the legal framework for the new anti-corruption institutions. Now, Ukraine has to show it can take a stand against corruption. Ukraine needs a new business ethic that outside investors can trust and that will only come when there is confidence in an impartial, active, system of justice that penalises-wrong doing. 2

3 The right business climate is also about encouraging innovation and diversification. To be, to remain, competitive, we all have to keep pace with changing markets. Ukraine needs to work out how to add value to your traditional production. In today's world, the promotion and internationalisation of your small and medium sized enterprises will be crucial for the re-launch of the Ukrainian economy. At present Small and Medium Enterprises account for only around 12% of GDP. Most SMEs are concentrated in your five biggest cities. There is huge scope to develop this kind of enterprise, which in the Union, let me tell you, is the prime creator of jobs. This is why we will be putting a big push behind SME development in Ukraine in To support private sector development and economic recovery, I am pleased to announce that the Commission has just taken two decisions worth 110 in support for SMEs in Ukraine. 70 million of this will support the development of SMEs across Ukraine and early recovery of those regions most affected by the conflict. 40 million will contribute to a loan guarantee fund, which will help SMEs to access finance through local banks. This funding will also facilitate Ukraine's participation in the EU's Research and Innovation programme, "Horizon 2020". The package will also help to set up Business Support Centres to cover 15 regions. These will be managed by the EBRD on our behalf in association with the local business associations, banks and local/regional authorities. These centres will support entrepreneurship by providing advice, and expertise on how to access 3

4 financing. We hope this can help launch new businesses, and contribute to a new start for people who have had to leave their homes due to the conflict All this is part of a wider coordinated effort that we coordinate under the Eastern Partnership, to improve access to finance, through programmes and loans implemented by the International Financial Institutions. But perhaps the most important thing that will transform your business climate, and attractiveness to investment, is the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area that is due to come into force with the EU on the first of January next year. The implementation of the DCFTA is about reforming your economy and even your society! It will bring challenges, certainly, but many new opportunities for the business sector. It will help Ukraine approximate to the European Union's world class norms and standards in ways that will ultimately boost its competitiveness and foreign direct investment. As you know the European Union already unilaterally removed almost all its tariffs in April Ukraine will benefit from some transitional periods after the DCFTA enters into force, but business needs to be preparing right now for the new competitive environment that is opening up to you. The European Union will support implementation of the DCFTA with another initiative to help SMEs seize new trade opportunities, improving access to finance and helping businesses comply with European standards. All this will be done by blending grants with loans from European Financial Institutions, with a capacity to leverage ten times the funding we put in. Ladies and gentlemen, 4

5 To build a better business environment and to achieve prosperity for the people of Ukraine, the government must continue to take steps to respect land and property rights, promote effective regulation, root out corruption and create the condition for businesses to grow. EU experts from our Delegation here in Kiev and a dedicated Support Group for Ukraine are on hand to provide technical assistance on the drafting of new legislation, and support ministers in the development of reform strategies in key sectors like energy and agriculture. The EU wants to see a modern and prosperous Ukraine. We will give you all the political, financial and technical support we can. But nothing we can do will replace the work you have to do - the work of ministers in creating the right environment, and the work of business people, finding new markets for Ukrainian products. Let's all work for a Ukraine that is that is fully open for business! 5

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