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CES/10/121

2 December 2010

The Small Business Act two years on: businesses call for improved delivery

Two years after the Small Business Act entered into force and shortly before the European Commission review, the European Economic and Social Committee's Employers Group, BUSINESSEUROPE, EUROCHAMBRES and the European Association of Craft, Small and Medium-sized Enterprises held a second yearly event to discuss the implementation of the Act and the way forward. The conference, bringing together EU decision-makers and businesses, identified a number of concrete measures to be taken rapidly by the EU and national policy makers in order to strengthen their efforts to deliver the Small Business Act for Europe (SBA).

European entrepreneurs and business representatives made it clear that current measures have not yet removed the obstacles to SMEs growth, job creation and innovation in Europe.

In their conclusions (see appendix), business representatives outlined ten recommendations in the three priority areas identified by the Council in its December 2008 Small Business Act Action Plan: access to markets, better regulation and access to finance.

Conference participants underscored the need to create a more SME-friendly regulatory environment by carefully assessing the impact of any new regulatory or legislative measures on SMEs. They also stressed that SMEs needed better access to markets, which is still hindered by excessive red tape and the lack of harmonisation in the EU internal market. They also called for initiatives to open up public procurement to SMEs.

Despite recent initiatives taken by the EU, in particular through the European Investment Bank and EU Research Framework Programmes, access to finance remains tricky. The new EU regulatory measures for banks should be defined in a balanced way, so that they do not hinder SMEs access to capital. The potentially significant cumulative effect of the wide range of measures on the table should also be taken into account, said participants in the event.

Participants also called for successful completion of Council negotiations on the European Private Company Statute (SPE), the only legislative proposal from the SBA still pending. The absence of an SPE restricts smaller companies' ability to grow and trade across Europe.

Henri Malosse, President of the EESC Employers' Group, concluded "It is high time that the European Commission replaced its strategies, acts and plans by concrete actions. The 23 million European SMEs would very much welcome a single positive action, like those on public procurement, vocational training, entrepreneurship, taxation and finance".

Supporting SMEs and business in Europe will be one of the key solutions not only to the financial crisis but also in addressing global social and environmental issues: SMEs are crucial to innovation and creativity. They deserve to be supported. While the economic outlook may look more encouraging in large areas of the EU, smaller businesses still encounter many of the bottle-necks and obstacles that the SBA was designed to tackle. Progress has undoubtedly been made by the Commission and in certain member states over the last two years. However, if the green shoots of economic recovery are to be harnessed into a long-term upswing coupled with sustained growth and new jobs, the delivery of the SBA and compliance with its overriding 'think small first' principle must be perceptible throughout the EU.

The Employers' Group (Group I) of the European Economic and Social Committee has 113 members, and is made up of entrepreneurs and representatives of entrepreneur associations working in industry, commerce, services and agriculture in the 27 Member States of the European Union.

Contact: Sabrina Tesoka, 32(0)25469552, sabrina.tesoka@eesc.europa.eu

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Brussels, 2 December 2010

Small Business Act:
Ten business recommendations to make it work

In reference to the three priorities identified in the Council’s 2 December 2008 Action Plan for “A Small Business Act for Europe”, BUSINESSEUROPE, EUROCHAMBRES and UEAPME make the following recommendations to policy makers at EU and national level.

IMPROVING ACCESS TO FINANCE

  • Reform of financial markets – a balanced approach should be taken to the definition of the new EU regulatory provisions for banks (e.g. on capital requirements), keeping in mind that disproportionate measures would negatively impact on the cost and availability of capital for SMEs and the potentially significant cumulative effect of the many measures currently on the table.

  • Availability of credit – credit guarantee instruments, both public and private, should be further developed, resulting in an efficient and widely available guarantee system.

  • Develop alternative sources of SME finance As the lending capacity of banks will remain impaired in the medium term, initiatives must be taken to increase the access of SMEs to capital markets and to devise better tax incentives for investors.

  • Public schemes – Public SME finance schemes should be boosted at both national and European level in order to address identified market failures and streamlined to improve accessibility. Particular attention should be paid to supporting the wide-spread problem of financing the first expansion of innovative companies.

A REGULATORY ENVIRONMENT SUPPORTIVE OF SMEs’ NEEDS

  • Improve impact assessments in policymaking - Systematic and independent assessment of the impact (cost-benefit) of all policy proposals on SMEs must be ensured, taking into account different sub-categories within this definition. Consultation of SME representatives on the first draft of the impact assessment will contribute to this process.

  • Systematic introduction and application of the “only once” principle - Public authorities have to ensure that enterprises are not be obliged to provide again information that the authorities have already received by another route, and this at all levels (European, national, regional, local).

  • Keeping SMEs in mind during policy making - The “think small first” principle means that the starting point for all legislation should be the smallest enterprises, instead of making exemptions for them or excluding them. It should be applied more consistently throughout the regulatory and implementation process at all levels: European, national, regional and local.

ENHANCE MARKET ACCESS FOR SMEs

  • Electronic interoperability The Commission and member states must together strive to enhance electronic interoperability in the internal market, in particular delivering on the Single Market Act proposal for a decision by 2012 to ensure mutual recognition of e-identification and e-authentication across the EU and the revision in 2011 of the Directive on electronic signatures.

  • European Private Company Statute The Council, with renewed political support from the European Commission, must intensify its efforts to resolve the impasse on the European Private Company Statute (SPE), the only legislative proposal contained in the SBA not to have been agreed. The adoption of the EU patent must also be a priority: it is crucial for the competitiveness of European companies.

  • Internationalisation of SMEs – The European Commission is strongly encouraged to adopt a more coherent strategy towards the internationalisation of SMEs, based on the principles of complementarity, sustainability and public private partnership.

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BUSINESSEUROPE represents more than 20 million small, medium and large companies. Active in European affairs since 1958, BUSINESSEUROPE Members are 40 central industrial and employers’ federations from 34 countries, working together to achieve growth and competitiveness in Europe. BUSINESSEUROPE is a European Social Partner.

Contact: Peter Vertessy, +32 (0)2 237 65 03, p.vertessy@businesseurope.eu

EUROCHAMBRES – The Association of European Chambers of Commerce and Industry represents over 20 million enterprises in Europe – 93% of which are SMEs – through members in 45 countries and a European network of 2000 regional and local Chambers.

Contact: Guendalina Cominotti, +32 (0)2 282 08 66, cominotti@eurochambres.eu

UEAPME is the employers’ organisation representing exclusively crafts, trades and SMEs from the EU and accession countries at European level. UEAPME has 85 member organisations covering over 12 million enterprises with 55 million employees. UEAPME is a European Social Partner.

Contact: Francesco Longu, +32 (0)496 52 03 29, pressoffice@ueapme.com

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