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Monday, November 14, 2005

Promoting Growth and Employment: Commission tables new, comprehensive policy for small and medium-sized enterprises

Employment, Innovation, Economy - Finances,SMEs,

News Europe’s 23 million small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are a major source of jobs, entrepreneurial skills, innovation as well as economic and social cohesion in the EU. This is why the European Commission has tabled a new, more pragmatic, comprehensive and inclusive policy for Europe’s SMEs today. By improving synergies between policy areas and by establishing a genuine partnership between the EU and Member States’ actions, this will help make SMEs more competitive, by streamlining EU policy instruments.

The Commission proposes to integrate the “Think Small First Principle” into all policies both at the national and EU level to make them truly SME friendly. Better regulation is another key area for SMEs. The Commission is committed to simplifying regulations and to ensuring that the forthcoming legislation does not inhibit SMEs’ growth and innovation potential. To reduce the information gap between the European institutions and businesses, the Communication calls for a more regular and structured dialogue with SME stakeholders. European SMEs are key to deliver stronger growth and more and better jobs – the two main objectives of the Lisbon partnership for Growth and Jobs. They make up a large part of Europe’s economy: there are some 23 million SMEs in the EU, providing around 75 million jobs and accounting for 99% of all enterprises . They are also a key part of European industry, as they contribute up to 80% of employment in some industrial sectors, such as textiles, construction or furniture. The Commission’s new approach provides a single coherent policy framework for EU actions in favour of SMEs. It puts particular focus on a more systematic consultation and cooperation with SME stakeholders to involve them in the policy-making process at an early stage, and thus benefit from their experience and increase their commitment in and ownership of the process. The Commission proposes specific actions in five areas : 1. Promoting entrepreneurship and skills, including actions to ensure successful transfer of businesses, to facilitate adaptation of SME workforce to labour market needs and to promote entrepreneurial skills. To narrow the skills gap, all partners, and particularly enterprises , should be involved in the development and definition of training courses and methodologies. The Commission invites Member States to review their educational and training policies to make them more responsive to current and anticipated changes in the labour market. 2. Improving SMEs’ access to markets, including actions to improve SMEs’ access to public procurement and standardisation. The Commission intends to propose new initiatives to encourage SME participation in business cooperation and matchmaking events, especially in border regions. 3. Cutting red tape, including the integration of ‘Think Small First’ principle in all EU policies and the simplification of rules and legislation, for example related to State aids or SMEs’ participation in EU programmes. The Commission will examine the SME dimension when assessing the impact of EU legislation and ensure that SMEs’ needs are properly and systematically taken into account. This will include longer transition periods, reduced fees, simplified reporting requirements or even exemptions from EU rules. 4. Improving SMEs’ growth potential, including actions to strengthen the innovation and research capacity of SMEs and increasing the existing financial support to SMEs. The Commission will undertake further measures to encourage and facilitate SME participation in the 7th Framework Programme for Research and to deliver specific support to SMEs in the field of intellectual property rights (IPR), through the EU business support networks. 5. Strengthening dialogue and consultation with SME stakeholders, including actions to create SME panels to get views from SMEs in specific areas of policy making and to launch a “European Enterprise Awards” to promote entrepreneurship and to facilitate the exchange of best practices at regional level. The Commission plans to create a quick and easy-to-use consultation mechanism (“SME panel”) via the Euro Info Centre network to get views from SMEs in specific areas of policy making. A Flash Eurobarometer survey has measured the views of 3047 managers of SMEs in the EU on access to finance (September 2005). The survey explores the financial situation of SMEs, their growth and development, use of financial instruments etc. One of the results is that 42% of SMEs find it not as easy compared to a few years ago to obtain a bank loan.

Source :  European Commission


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