Discussion took place at the European Committee of the Regions on how to help Ukrainian small and medium-sized enterprises. This difficult and sensitive topic was raised during the debate on local affairs in the European Union and was presented by the ECR First Vice-President Mr Władysław Ortyl.
Władysław Ortyl, Marshal of the Podkarpackie region in Poland, instigated the discussion on the issue and was the main speaker. He outlined the current situation in the Podkarpackie region in connection with the war beyond our eastern border. He stressed that the tools for the long-term development of Polish-Ukrainian cooperation include not only humanitarian aid but also the maintaining of economic cooperation.
"Based on my experience, we need better coordination of our actions in the European Union and they should cover three elements: Firstly, faster development of the transport infrastructure linking the European Union and Ukraine. Secondly, support for companies considering relocating their activities to the European Union and dedicated assistance programmes with the participation of experts. The third element is financial and technical assistance from the European Union".
In Mr Ortyl's view, new infrastructure solutions, in particular in the field of transport, are of strategic importance. Key actions to improve cross-border transport include, for example, investments in improving and easing rail transport and road transport, building and developing transhipment terminals and supporting different types of border-crossing points.
"The activation of regular services from Ukraine would allow not only Polish but also other EU and Ukrainian partners to jointly overcome problems with the transport of products. This is particularly important given the ongoing increase in the number of companies located in the west of Ukraine and the need to replace maritime transport with rail due to the Russian blockade of Black Sea ports. In order to implement such action, it is essential to bring the technical condition of the railway infrastructure into line and to ensure that goods can be transhipped," Mr Ortyl added.
As regards support for companies that are considering relocating their activities to the European Union and creating appropriate support programmes for them, Marshal Ortyl pointed out that the need for action is confirmed by observations and statistical data.
"As far back as the beginning of 2022 we already saw a significant increase in interest and in queries from Ukrainian investors who had decided to move their business to Poland due to the situation in their country. These Ukrainian projects are for the most part innovative companies in high-tech sectors (IT; aviation, especially drones; the space industry), but there are also legal and other services, for example," noted Mr Ortyl.
Mr Ortyl commented that since the beginning of the year, Ukrainian citizens had set up more than 10 thousand companies in Poland. This represents around 5% of all business activities registered in that period. In Podkarpackie region, there are approximately 300 such businesses. In September this year, one in ten new companies in Poland was set up by Ukrainian citizens. The Rzeszów Regional Development Agency is also trying to provide the broadest possible advisory support to Ukrainian businesses that apply to it.
A letter of intent between the Rzeszow Regional Development Agency and the West Ukrainian Business Club was signed on 13 October. This signed agreement is now being implemented with concrete actions.
It is worth adding here that special workshops are also organised by the Investor and Exporter Service Centre at the Podkarpackie Regional Marshal's Office. This training relates to entrepreneurship and to aid funds. The war has made these contacts more difficult, but networking is still taking place.
At the end of his address, Marshal Ortyl called for the European Union to develop innovative support mechanisms for technical assistance to Ukraine.