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Champress, Syria Story, Buildex, Syriasteps, Syriandays, Al Thawra, Massader, SANA, Syria-news, KUNA on Friday 26 February, 2010  

Under the patronage of H.E. Mr. Muhammad Naji Otri, Prime Minister of the Syrian Arab Republic and H.E. Mr. Amr Moussa, Secretary General of the Arab League, the Syrian Enterprise and Business Centre (SEBC) /SME Support Programme (SSP) and the Arab Industrial Development and Mining Organization (AIDMO) organized the “Euro- Arab Conference to Support Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs)” at the Four Seasons Hotel- Damascus from 20 - 22 February 2010.

This initiative, which is partially financed by the European Union, aims to strengthen ties and existing partnerships between European and Arab nations in the SME sector and to achieve maximum benefit from the existing programmes and funds launched by governments of both sides for the purpose of assisting SMEs in development and rehabilitation.

Syrian Minister of Labour and Social Affairs, Dr Diala Haj Aref, representative of H.E. Mr Otri, General Director of AIDMO, H.E. Mr. Mohammed bin Yusuf, SEBC President Dr. Rateb al-Shallah, and Head of the European Union Delegation to Syria, H.E. Mr. Ambassador Vassilis Bontosoglou,  Director General of the European Department for Arab- European Cooperation and representative of H.E. Mr Moussa, Ambassador Fares Abed El- Karim, participated in the conference, in addition to representatives of the Secretariat of the Arab League, the Secretariat of the Arab Council of Economic Unity, representatives of Arab and European organizations, and a selection of Arab and European businessmen.

In his opening speech, Dr. Rateb al-Shallah, emphasized the importance of Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) as they are the backbone of industrial development worldwide in terms of their importance in economic and social development, their positive influence in creating new jobs and reducing unemployment, and their effective contribution to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth. He added that the objectives of the conference come in line with the Syrian government’s ambitious programme for economic development and investment promotion which is paying more attention to developing the business sector by supporting Small and Medium Enterprises. Objectives of the conference also come in line with the goals of the Syrian Enterprise and Business Centre mainly in improving the efficiency and competitiveness of SMEs through the Business Upgrading Unit and the Enterprise Europe Network in Syria in addition to access to medium and long term finance through the Loan Guarantee Scheme in Syria.

“The Arab world, has begun to reap the fruits of the establishment of the Great Arab Free Trade Agreement (GAFTA) and the association agreements made with the European Union, as trade between Arab states grew by 4 times between 2002 and 2008, increasing from 40 billion USD to 164 billion USD. Trade between Arab states and the EU tripled in the same period, growing from 141 billion USD to 401 billion USD”, said bin Yusuf.

Mr Bontosoglou, said that the Syrian Enterprise and Business Centre gathers SMEs in Syria, the business sector and support programmes all in one entity stressing that SMEs are considered the standard of economic wellness. He added that the EU has signed several agreement with Arab states for free trade in the Mediterranean in the aim to open new markets, introduce new tools for increasing competitiveness, create new jobs expressing the urgent need for a business encouraging environment.  

On his part, El- Karim stressed that Arab-European relations witnessed great development over the years and that Arab states are highly concerned with enhancing these ties all indicated at ministerial levels and at the Arab summit.

Finally, Dr Haj Aref pointed out that during the past two years, SMEs witnessed drastic changes and developments due to the strong belief of their influence and importance in promoting industrial investments and therefore creating positive change on the investment and business climates and hence social stability and development.

The first session was chaired by Mr Poul Gadegaard, SME Support Programme Team Leader where he provided statistics and information on the SME sector in Syria and the impact of global financial crises on the sector. He pointed out that “Despite the fact that SMEs are facing many challenges, SMEs in Syria were able to contribute to 74% of the GDP”.

More than 600 participants attended the Conference, in addition to 30 professional participants from both Arab and European countries presented work papers.and lectures

The conference, which was held for the first time in the Syrian Capital, was followed by bilateral meetings between the participating agencies and companies in order to get potential advantage of the tools offered by funding agencies participating enabling them to create joint industrial investment projects.

For the agenda of the conference:

Background Info:

About Syrian Enterprise & Business Centre (SEBC):

The Syrian Enterprise & Business Centre (SEBC) is in large measure a European-style Syrian operated and managed business institution with roots stretching back to the first EU programme implemented in Syria after the Barcelona Declaration, namely the Syrian-European Business Centre (1996-2006). Evolving as a smooth transition from that extremely successful EU programme, SEBC is now the leading organization supporting the Syrian economy by serving as an implementation agency for projects aimed at developing the private sector and the evolution of Syria into market economy. In other words, SEBC is the catalyst institution for private sector development and growth in Syria.

From its head office in Damascus and a branch in Aleppo, and with two business incubators and an affiliated training centre, SEBC is currently implementing various Programmes such as:

  • The Trade Enhancement Programme: a 15 Million Euro EU-funded programme which has a strong component on customs facilitation and streamlining of trade-related legislation.
  • The Business Environment Simplification Programme: a 5 Million Euro EU-funded programme which aims to achieve a drastic simplification of the regulatory and administrative procedures for doing business.
  • The Strengthening Quality Management, Capabilities and Infrastructures programme, which aims at assisting the Syrian government in building up a modern quality infrastructure, in order to protect consumers from unsafe products and increase international trade.
  • The SME Support Programme (see below)

About SME Support Programme( SSP):

A 15 Million Euro EU-funded programme that focuses assistance on six areas:

  • The Efficiency and Competitiveness of SMEs are Improved,
  • Local Consultancy Business Development Services are Enhanced,
  • Access to and Choice of Medium and Long-Term Finance for SMEs Facilitated,
  • Access to Information on Export Market Opportunities Facilitated,
  • Strengthened SME Support Institution,
  • Policies to Strengthen and Support the Private Sector Formulated.

About AIDMO:

The Arab Industrial Development and Mining Organization (AIDMO) works within the strategy of Arab common economic action initiated by the Arab summit conferences. Its major objective is to ensure Arab industrial co-ordination and integration, contribute to the development and promotion of the Arab economy and its support in the fields of industry, energy, mining and standardization with a view to strengthening its productivity, quality and competitiveness, plan for the support and elaboration of local, national and regional industrial projects and to encourage investment in mining and industry in the Arab world and promote technical, technological and industrial co-operation among Arab states, and with foreign developed and developing countries.


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