Brussels, 15 th December 2009
SME's access to finance
As a response to the financial and economic crisis, most Member States have adopted policy measures to enhance SMEs’ access to liquidity, especially to bank lending, through the creation and extension of loan and guarantee schemes for SMEs (Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Romania, Spain and the United Kingdom).
The European Investment Bank package of €30 billion for loans to SMEs for 2008-2011 also allowed some member countries to use a second level guarantee scheme. In addition, Belgium and France have set up a "credit mediator" acting as a contact point for SMEs and entrepreneurs that have problems with their bank.
Several Member States have taken action to reduce late payments, anticipating the recast of the late payments Directive and in some cases, going beyond its scope. In Bulgaria, the Finance Minister announced that he would increase the statutory interest for late payment by 10 or 20 points as a preventative measure. In France, the law to modernise the economy adopted in August 2008 requires that the term for public payments is reduced to 30 days by 1 July 2010 at the latest. In Germany a new law in force since 1 January 2009 improves the position of the creditor for ‘business to consumer’ contracts (e.g. advance payments, refusal of service if no guarantee, collateral to be provided). In Portugal, the Government has approved the programme “Pagar a Tempo e Horas” to reduce payment delays, establishing a long-term target of 30 to 40 days. In the United Kingdom, the central government has committed to pay all bills within 10 days.
Implementing the “Think Small First” principle
All Member States have adopted national targets for reducing administrative burdens and continued to simplify the administrative environment for SMEs. The average time and cost to start-up a private limited company is now 8 days (compared to 9 days in 2008) and the cost is € 417 (compared to € 463 in 2008). Eighteen countries have provided an operational one-stop-shop that is able to serve the creation of private limited companies and has developed at least a number of pre-defined procedures (company registration, tax registration, etc). Bulgaria has consolidated the streamlining of start-up procedures, initiated in 2008 in which nine start-up procedures have been merged and simplified into just one. Germany has successfully amended the legislation for private limited companies, which not only simplifies the procedure but may also be instrumental in fostering the creation of more enterprises. Streamlining of processes in Hungary , Malta and Slovakia has also contributed to time reductions in these countries. In Slovenia , the electronic one-stop-shop system can register all forms of companies in 3 days or less and has resulted in savings of €10.2 million a year for Slovenian SMEs.
SME's access to markets
In order to facilitate SMEs’ access to public procurement contracts, the Commission invited Member States to make the most of the “European Code of Best practices” (‘ the SME Code’) adopted as a part of the SBA . In France, the legislator clarified in the general public procurement Act (‘Code des Marchés Publics’) that setting minimum capacity levels for tenders is optional. In Hungary, the Act on public procurement was modified in April 2009 and includes some new elements such as the subdivision of contracts into lots when appropriate. In Ireland, the national authorities are preparing broad guidance in order to assist public authorities in determining the appropriate levels of financial capacity of tenderers in the light of particular requirements. In Poland, the authorities have promoted the SME Code through a website and by distributing it to representatives of contracting authorities who participate in training. In Sweden, the Legal, Financial and Administrative Services Agency is, as from January 2009, responsible for providing practical help and guidance both to procurers and tenderers nationwide. In 2010 the Commission will launch a campaign to promote the use of the SME Code and a study to update the figures on SMEs’ access to public tenders.
In order to foster the internationalisation of SMEs, a significant number of countries (Austria, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Slovenia and Spain) have strengthened public support for the promotion and financing of exports.
Commission Working Document "Report on the implementation of the SBA" adopted on 15 December 2009 - Member States' autumn 2009 reports on the implementation of their National Reform Programs within the Lisbon Strategy for Growth and Jobs:
"Small Business Act" for Europe:
SME Performance Review - Monitoring the implementation of the Small Business Act: