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EU High Representative Federica Mogherini on 9 February welcomed Elmar Mammadyarov, Foreign Affairs Minister of Azerbaijan to Brussels, to review the on-going negotiations of the new agreement between the EU and Azerbaijan.
"We have made progress towards a comprehensive new agreement", said Mogherini, "I hope these negotiations can be concluded soon, to make our partnership more relevant for the times we are living, the challenges we face and the opportunities we have to take."
The EU is Azerbaijan’s first trading partner and biggest export and import market, it is also Azerbaijan’s largest foreign investor, both in the oil and non-oil sector. The EU supports the government in improving the country’s business and investment climate and assists small and medium sized companies with funding, training, and export support to new markets through the EU4Business initiative (http://www.eu4business.eu/).
Ali and Nino bookstores, the largest bookstore chain in Azerbaijan, benefitted from EBRD’s Advice for Small Businesses programme, funded by the EU under its EU4Business initiative.
"The main issue was our IT equipment", said Nigar Kocharli, owner. "Our computers were old and didn’t meet our requirements. But modern software was too expensive". Nigar Kocharli applied for EU-EBRD dedicated support programme for small and medium enterprises, that allowed her to install modern software in her shops and update the webpage that offers online book shop to her customers. The Ali and Nino store chain has grown to 5 book shops, a publishing house and has even two book cafes and employs 70 people.
From 2009-2016, EU has contributed €12 million, triggering €222 million loans to companies that have supported 14,000 enterprises and created more than 1,400 new jobs.
Under the EBRD’s Small Business Initiative and with funding from the European Union under the EU4Business Initiative, the EBRD provides entrepreneurs with access to the know-how to transform their businesses, looking at areas including strategy, marketing, operations, quality management, energy efficiency, financial management and beyond. The cost of these projects is shared between the enterprise and the European Union.