European Charter for Small Enterprises
The EU has recognised the importance of small enterprises with the adoption of the European Charter for Small Enterprises by the "General Affairs" Council in Lisbon on 13 June 2000, and the approval of this Charter at the European Council held in Feira on 19 and 20 June of the same year. The Charter recommends that governments focus their strategic efforts in ten pathways for action which are of vital importance for the environment in which small enterprises operate.
Annex III to the Conclusions of the Presidency of the Santa Maria Da Feira European Council of 19 and 20 June 2000.
Small enterprises are the driving force for innovation and job creation in Europe. Their small size makes them very sensitive to changes in the industry and environment in which they operate. This is why emphasis was placed on the need to facilitate the development of small enterprises by the Heads of State or Government and the European Commission at the European Council in Feira (Portugal) on 19 and 20 June 2000.
The Heads of State or Government and the European Commission acknowledge the dynamic capacity of small enterprises, particularly when it comes to providing new services, creating jobs and fostering social and regional development. They also stress the importance of entrepreneurship and of not penalising some of the failures. They also agree on the strength of values such as knowledge, commitment and flexibility in the new economy.
In order to stimulate entrepreneurship and improve the business environment for small enterprises, the Heads of State or Government and the European Commission have decided to work on ten routes of action, i.e.:
- Education and training for entrepreneurship
Business principles will have to be taught from an early age if an 'entrepreneurial spirit' is to be encouraged; this applies particularly to secondary and university levels, in encouraging entrepreneurial initiatives by young people and developing training programmes for small enterprises.
- Cheaper and faster start-up
Company start-ups will become cheaper and faster, particularly through the use of online registration.
- Better legislation and regulation
There will be a reduction in the negative impact of national bankruptcy laws and new regulations on small enterprises. It will be made easier for small enterprises to use administrative documents and they will not have to enforce certain regulative obligations.
- Availability of skills
Training institutions will impart skills adapted to the needs of small enterprises and provide lifelong training and consultancy services.
- Improving online access
Public administrations will be urged to develop online services for their dealings with enterprises.
- Getting more out of the single market
The Member States and the European Commission will complete the single market so that enterprises can derive the maximum benefit from it. At the same time, national and Community competition rules will have to be strictly applied.
- Taxation and financial matters
Tax systems will need to make life easier for enterprises. Access to finance (risk capital, structural funds) will also need to be improved.
- Strengthening the technological capacity of small enterprises
Efforts will be made to promote new technologies, implement the Community patent and facilitate access to research programmes which are more focused on commercial applications. Inter-firm cooperation and cooperation with higher education institutions and research centres will be encouraged.
Successful e-business models and top-class small business support
Enterprises will be encouraged to adopt best practices. Business support services will be developed.
- Develop stronger, more effective representation of SMEs' interests at Union and national level
Solutions aimed at representing small enterprises within the Member States and the European Union will be reviewed. National and Community policies will be better coordinated and evaluations will be carried out with a view to improving the performance of small enterprises. An annual report on the implementation of the Charter will appear in the spring of each year.
For the EU Member States, the implementation process was launched in the spring of 2000. The acceding and candidate countries were involved in the process from the spring of 2002. Following the adoption of the Charter by the acceding and candidate countries in Maribor (Slovenia) on 23 April 2002, the process was also launched in other areas. The Western Balkan countries (Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Serbia and Montenegro) adopted the Charter in Thessaloniki (Greece) in June 2003. In 2004, these countries embarked upon the first stage of the implementation process, with Moldova joining in that same year.