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Brussels, 28 September 2010

SME Finance Forum: Ensuring access to credit and to finance to small businesses

In the first meeting of the SME Finance Forum today, possible means to improve the current situation of access to finance were discussed, such as the introduction of a grace period for firms in difficulties, the involvement of credit mediators and improved loan guarantees. Convened by Vice-President Antonio Tajani, leading European banking and business organisations examined ways to strengthen their efforts to ensure the continuous flow of funding to firms, especially small and medium-sized ones. This is the first time that such a high level group was convened to tackle the issue of access to credit and finance for small businesses.

European Commission Vice-President Antonio Tajani, responsible for industry and entrepreneurship, said: “We need to reinforce our efforts to ensure that small businesses can borrow from banks even under unfavourable economic conditions. Today’s meeting provided an opportunity to discuss best ways to do that. We are committed to improve the supply of credits to small businesses as this is essential for the recovery, future growth and prosperity of Europe. On the other hand one should not forget that credit from banks does not represent the only available option to get finance. Venture capital, stock exchanges, EU Financing can provide finance as well to SMEs, maybe in a more targeted way.”

Although the Commission’s September Interim Forecast shows that economic recovery in the EU has accelerated so that the expected growth for 2010 is 1.8%, euro area banks are still tightening their credit standards to businesses.

To address these problems, the SME Finance Forum participants discussed specific ways to improve the situation.

  • First, SMEs facing temporary difficulties can be provided a grace period during which they can postpone payment of interest and principal of their bank loans. This idea follows a successful Italian practice.

  • Second, several member states, including France, Belgium and Germany, have found that a credit mediator can successfully find solutions to cases where the loan applications of SMEs had initially been rejected.

  • Third, the tremendous success of mutual guarantee institutions and public guarantee programmes in most Member States during the crisis have shown that loan guarantees make it much easier to borrow in troubled times. About 1.8 million SMEs benefited from loan guarantees in 2009.

  • Fourth, in a rapidly changing financial environment SMEs need to be much more aware of the financing options and conditions they face, which makes training and access to advisory services essential.

The forum concluded that it is necessary to closely monitor the development of lending to SMEs, promote the good practices identified in the meeting and to develop financing alternatives. Next steps forward will be prepared in technical meetings of the SME Finance Forum, and reviewed at high level in early 2011.


As announced by Vice-President Tajani at the SME Finance Forum conference held in Brussels on 6 May 2010, this permanent SME Finance Forum was set up to monitor the market situation and to encourage new approaches to improve access to finance for SMEs. It brings together SMEs, banks and other financial institutions to examine the current market situation and legal framework for SMEs access to finance. It seeks to explore new ideas and strategies to improve access to finance for SMEs. It provides a valuable opportunity to discuss good practices that help SMEs, as well as longer-term issues. It follows the successful series of round table discussions that the Commission has organised with the participating organisations since 1993.

Further information about the Forum can be found at:

Commission’s September Interim Forecast:

Bank Lending Survey of the European Central Bank:

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