27 June 2015: One year on from the signature of the EU Association Agreements with Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine, citizens in partner countries are starting to feel the benefits.
"It has become easier to breathe. There is a feeling that our future is in our hands despite all the tragedy and all the difficulties," says Volodymyr Yermolenko, a philosopher and university professor from Ukraine. This week marks one year since the EU signed Association Agreements with Georgia, the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine. Each Association Agreement also includes a so-called Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area which opens the way for increased trade with the EU, bringing the three countries closer to the EU than ever before. For Volodymyr, Ukraine's closer relations with the EU have exposed him to new audiences as he has started giving lectures in Europe and European journals now publish his articles. At the same time, the EU is providing support to his country as it faces significant challenges, not least the ongoing conflict affecting the Eastern regions.
The Association Agreements have also helped Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine to access the biggest internal market in the world, with more than 500 million customers. Simion Zolotco, a farmer from Moldova, has seen the benefits for his business first hand: "The European market is now open for us and we can export our products."
Moldova's exports to the EU increased by 20% last year, growing faster than general trade, which went up by 8%. When parts of the Russian market were closed to Moldovan trade, the EU was there to replace that business. Simion explains: "To prevent big losses on our side, the EU helped us to give 80 tons of apples to public institutions such as orphanages."
Georgia has also seen its exports to the EU rise by 12% in the first six months of the Association Agreement. Entrepreneur Revaz Janelidze from Tskaltubo targets the European market with fresh herbs from Georgia. He points to stands with his produce: "We want to have similar stands in every European supermarket." The Association Agreement gives him the chance to tap into the potential of the EU market with its 500million plus consumers.
Small and medium-sized enterprises, like those of Simion and Revaz, often struggle to meet the product standards for imports to the European Union. The EU has given grant funding that is set to unlock €2 billion of new investments to help SMEs upgrade to European product standards.
Read more here: