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SMEunited, the body representing SMEs in Europe, says it “once again strongly condemns the ongoing aggression” by Russia in Ukraine.
Together with its members, it says it also continues to support businesses in Ukraine and Ukrainian refugees living in Europe.
A statement said, “2023 remains a severe year for Ukrainians, facing the continued destruction of their homeland and businesses. SMEunited member Handicraft Chamber of Ukraine (HCU) reports that many entrepreneurs gave up and closed their businesses, abandoning areas of intense war activities.”
According to the HCU, family and micro-enterprises have suffered severely. Their activities were under critical threat due to men’s military service or the loss of employees.
Skilled workers were redirected to other, more urgent industries. At the outbreak of war, supply chains were disrupted. The supply of finished products has become irregular, leading to the collapse of online stores on international marketplaces.
Only those companies that managed to readjust their production profile or activities to provide critically needed products and services for civilians or the military were able to catch up with the pre-war level. Positive trends were recorded for businesses with a strong Ukrainian identity, such as traditional crafts. Specific categories of Ukrainian-made products are in high demand due to the increased popularity of Ukraine and Ukrainian culture in certain parts of the world.
Craft companies and SMEs constantly adapt activities to the ever-changing situation. Businesses identify finance sources and new distribution channels, re-profile or relocate production to another country, and enter new markets. Over the past few months, Ukrainian entrepreneurs showed more interest in EU projects and further grant opportunities and mobility programmes. They also increased the demand for digital and business training, especially with regard to export.
To support Craft and SMEs, the HCU currently develops an international tool kit for craftspeople and SMEs planning to enter new markets. Additionally, the HCU continues its Craft Business School, which attracted even more interest among craftspeople and entrepreneurs with the outbreak of the war.
At the same time, European small businesses, supported by their organisations in the Member States and public employment services, say they are strongly mobilised to support and integrate Ukrainian refugees into the labour market at local level. After the adoption of the Temporary Protection Directive, SMEunited members organised several initiatives to support and integrate Ukrainian refugees, mainly women with young children, at local level. This, it is claimed, is a concrete illustration of a multi-stakeholder approach in line with our European Partnership for integration.
For SMEs, the support of the public employment service network is crucial for providing language courses, assessing the skills and qualifications of refugees, and organising a good match between refugees and vacant jobs. SMEunited welcomes the launch of the EU Pilot Talent Pool for refugees from Ukraine through the EURES network. In this way, employers can assess the CVs of Ukrainian job seekers.
SMEunited also supports EU sanctions packages against Russia and the Commission’s proposal to extend the suspension of all import duties, quotas and trade defence measures on Ukrainian exports to the EU for another year.
SMEunited President Petri Salminen stated: “For a year now, Ukrainians have been living under a shocking and brutal attack. It is a shared responsibility of the whole world to ensure that the war is brought to an end. The aggressor must not win, and we cannot give in to violence.
Entrepreneurs in Ukraine and across Europe have shown strong support for Ukraine through their actions and perseverance over the past year. This is a sign of entrepreneurs’ commitment to their local environment. And this unwavering support and community spirit will continue.”
“Independence, freedom and security are such fundamental values that they cannot be traded or taken by force.”