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Brussels, 15 th December 2009

EU and its Member States committed to make life easier for small companies

The European Commission reports good progress in the implementation of the Small Business Act (SBA) in 2009. The consensus on the SBA and the adoption of an Action plan to better assist SMEs in coping with the economic and financial crises has triggered impressive progress on the EU level as well as in the Member States. A broad range of measures have been taken to implement the Leitmotiv of the SBA - the "Think Small First" principle. ( see MEMO/09/556 )

Vice-President Günter Verheugen, Commissioner for Enterprise and Industry, said: "We must fully exploit the growth potential of European SMEs to create a sufficient number of new and high qualified jobs. Unlocking SME potential has been a key political priority of this Commission. Policies at all levels must encourage entrepreneurial risk taking and provide for the best possible framework conditions for SMEs. "

The SBA, adopted in 2008, is an ambitious package of policies designed to put SMEs' interests at the centre of decision-making. At the height of the economic and financial crisis, the SBA implementation in the first year focussed delivery on the following priorities:

  • Reducing administrative burden for SMEs: All new European legislation and legislation in some Member States (e.g. Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Germany) now passes through an "SME test" to ensure that it is business friendly. Unnecessary administrative burdens worth billions of euro have been scrapped. (see also MEMO/09/474 ).  The average time and cost of starting a private limited company in the EU has been reduced to 8 days and €417 respectively and eighteen countries have established one-stop-shops for company creation.

  • Access to finance: Simplified EU state aid rules (through the Global Block Exemption Regulation and the temporary State aid framework) allowed Member States to better help SMEs. Loans and overall funding through the European Investment Bank and Fund have increased to €11,5 billion in 2009. Legislative proposals were tabled to better tackle the problem of late payments of invoices. Several governments have committed themselves to paying their bills within 30 days or less. Moreover, new rules are discussed under which Member States would be free to exempt micro-businesses from accounting rules thus potentially saving them a further €6.7 billion.

  • Access to markets: SMEs are already benefiting from a 40% reduction in fees for EU trade mark rights and simplified registration procedures. As a result of a "European Code of Best Practices", access of SMEs to public procurement has become easier and more open in a number of countries. The implementation of the services directive in all Member States will facilitate the establishment of businesses and cross-border provision of services, while the proposed statute of a European Private Company – when adopted - will introduce common rules for starting up and operating a business in any European country. Access to standards has been made easier through the publication of scopes of standards free of charge.

  • Promoting entrepreneurship: The role of entrepreneurship education in Member States' education systems continued to increase. The Commission initiative Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs has taken off.

Based on this encouraging progress, the European Commission will continue monitoring the implementation of the Small Business Act at national level in 2010.

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