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Commission européenne - Communiqué de presse

Opening the world for small and medium sized enterprises to enhance EU growth

Brussels, 09 November 2011: European small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) should better profit from fast growing emerging markets, such as in China, India, Russia or in regions like South East Asia and Latin America. This is the key issue to overcome the crisis addressed in the European Commission communication ‘Small Business, Big World - a new partnership to help SMEs seize global opportunities’ presented today. Only 13 % of EU SMEs are internationally active outside the EU through trade, investment or other forms of cooperation with foreign partners. Therefore, the Commission is working to establish a more coherent and effective EU strategy for supporting SMEs in international markets. This could be achieved by reinforcing business support services, improving the coordination and use of existing resources including the Enterprise Europe Network. Thus SMEs have better access to more relevant information and assistance in their attempts to penetrate new markets and search for the right local partners. .

European Commission Vice-President Antonio Tajani, Commissioner for Industry and Entrepreneurship, said: "Major non-EU markets with strong growth rates represent significant opportunities for EU small enterprises. SMEs are Europe's main economic strength. To help them to better exploit their potential in the global arena is a clear priority to boost competitiveness and create employment."

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SMEs face particular obstacles to tapping the global market, not least when it comes to access to market information, locating possible customers and finding the right partners. They also face more complex issues such as compliance with foreign laws, for example mandatory rules of contract law, customs rules, technical regulations and standards, managing technology transfer and protecting intellectual or industrial property rights. In dealing with such challenges SMEs are usually less well equipped with in-house expertise and financial or human resources than larger enterprises.

Europe’s 23 million SMEs account for two thirds of jobs in the private sector and around 80 % of new jobs over the past five years have been created by SMEs. Sectors such as machinery and equipment or chemicals in Brazil or energy in India have already enabled EU companies to achieve significant results, and many more examples could be given. To pave this way for businesses, Europe needs to boost their internationalisation process and provide the necessary support to SMEs when going international.

This new EU strategy sets out the following actions:

  • Strengthening the existing supply of support services in priority markets;

  • Improving the governance structure of the Enterprise Europe Network to allow better collaboration with hosting organisations and stakeholders.

  • Making support schemes at EU level more consistent to raise their impact; currently there are more than 300 support programmes at national level, often focusing on one growing region only whilst in the meantime new growth regions have emerged.

  • Promoting clusters and networks for SME internationalisation;

  • Orchestrating pan-European collaboration in priority markets to make the most of the public funds spent;

  • Creating a single virtual gateway to information for SMEs wishing to do business beyond the UE borders;

  • Leveraging existing EU policies to accelerate the international growth of European SMEs.

Future efforts should focus on how existing service providers can collaborate more effectively, often across national boundaries, and how incentives can be provided to bring this about. Comprehensive ‘mapping’ of the European supply of support services will lay the foundation for this process. All EU institutions and relevant SME stakeholders, in partnership, will be involved in the implementation of this strategy and should adhere to the priorities and guiding principles set out in this Communication when considering new activities in support of SME internationalisation, in both the short and the longer term.

Member States are encouraged to adopt a similar approach and work in close cooperation with the Commission in strengthening the support environment for European SMEs’ international growth.

See also MEMO/11/765

Contacts :

Carlo Corazza +32 2 295 17 52

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