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Representatives of Moldova’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCIRM) have taken part in a European Union (EU) Twinning programme, visiting their counterparts in Brussels and coming away with valuable ideas and tips on how to improve the support and services the CCIRM offers its own business community.

East Invest 2, a project being supported by the EU, is assisting the CCIRM with learning from European experience in order to enhance its potential for supporting businesses and launch a sustainable public-private dialogue in the interests of entrepreneurs.

East Invest 2 is a regional investment and trade facilitation programme being supported by the EU and implemented by the Association of European Chambers of Commerce and Industry (EUROCHAMBRES) and European Association of Craft, Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (UEAPME). The programme is working to improve the SME sector across the six countries of the Eastern Partnership: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine.

The Moldovan economy is going through a complex period of adaptation so that it can work in line with the Association Agreement signed with the EU. Enterprises and state authorities are working on diversifying market opportunities, improving the quality of products and adopting European standards and requirements.

The CCIRM plays a special role in this process, linking the business sector and state authorities, and thus leads the way in terms of strengthening public-private dialogue. However, the CCIRM itself also needs to improve the quality and diversity of its services, and this is where East Invest 2 is helping.

One of the project’s components provides Twinning opportunities for Business Support Organisations (BSOs), which aim to foster effective and long-term cooperation between the Chambers of Commerce and Industry and business (support) associations of the countries in the Eastern Partnership and the EU, allowing the beneficiary countries to learn from the EU experience.

East Invest 2 Twinning: a book of best practices

Under this Twinning arrangement, four representatives from the CCI of Moldova had an opportunity to visit their CCI counterpart in Brussels, Brussels Enterprises, Commerce and Industry (BECI), in February 2017. They were mostly interested in the experience of institutional development of the Chamber, widening the range of business services (Business Support Services) and strategies for attracting new and keeping existing members. However, once in the EU capital, the participants did not limit themselves to simply studying the experience of the CCI of Brussels.

Lyudmila Pascal, Director of the Department of Business Environment Development of the CCIRM, remarked: “We were very lucky that the training took place in Brussels. The Belgian partners adopted an integrated approach to the organisation of the training. A whole series of business meetings at several departments of the European Commission was organised for us. It is impossible to assess the principles of work of the Brussels CCI out of context of its cooperation with European institutions.”

The Moldovan representatives were especially interested in the experience of their Brussels’ colleagues in working with the members of the Chamber and attracting new members, increasing incomes from memberships, improving the level and quality of services provided, and strategies on enhancing the level of professionalism of the staff. A fruitful and detailed discussion centred on these central but complex issues for any CCI, and issues related to the necessity to work out flexible strategies for the positioning of Chambers of Commerce at the national, regional and European levels.

As in Moldova, Belgium sees high competition among business associations for members and for attracting members to their services. Brussels has around 80 business sector associations, for example.

Under these circumstances, the CCIRM must propose something special and useful to entrepreneurs and businesses. Inga Leontyan, Director of the Department of International Relations of the CCIRM, recognising this, remarked: “The main working principle of the CCIRM is to be useful for business. In this context, the experience of the Brussels Chamber was very important. They have developed a wide spectrum of consultation services based on outsourcing. They actively work in the spheres of lobbying and advocacy. The greatest impression for me was their information system ‘Export Toolbox’, which is a set of services for the development of the export potential of members.”

From ideas to implementation

The CCIRM is currently implementing its Strategic Development Programme, which has as its main goal, turning the Chamber into a dynamic institution with a diversified spectrum of services. Moldovan participants brought back many useful ideas from their trip to Brussels. Lyudmila Pascal noted: “For me, a real discovery was the system of monitoring and evaluating engagement with members. Such a system helps to see the trends in the work of the CCI and develop a strategy on improvement of certain types of business services, and provides a detailed evaluation of the so-called ‘growth points’.”

Implementation of some of these ideas is now the main task in Moldova. The CCI of Moldova is already developing its own systems of communication and monitoring and evaluating its members. The strategic approach to the range and quality of business services is being reconsidered. Research is underway on identifying the possibilities of stimulating enterprises and new start-ups, as well as granting them access to funding, a key issue for Moldova.

Summing up how these exchanges, facilitated through East Invest 2, are benefiting the work of the Chamber, Inga Leontyan, remarked: “It is still early to talk about concrete results. Most importantly, the experience of these structured exchanges and visits with the colleagues from Brussels gave impetus to the reconsideration of some working principles of our Chamber, and provided very helpful guidelines for change. We now have a clear understanding of how to attract new members, keep the old ones and what to propose to them. The ultimate goal is to create a stable organisational structure of the CCIRM and a comprehensive system of interaction with the business sector.”

With the support of East Invest 2, the CCIRM is steadily moving in this direction: towards a sustainable and successful model, in support of Moldovan business.

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