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Brussels, 30 May 2011

Statement by Commissioner Michel Barnier following the agreement at the Competitiveness Council on micro-entities

The Competitiveness Council today was dominated by a recurring theme: how to help small businesses (SMEs). There are over 20 million small businesses in Europe which are the strength of our economy. Too often, small businesses do not find what they want in the single market: they only see disadvantages, barriers and administrative burdens rather than a space that provides the opportunity to grow and prosper.

We want to heal the breach between small businesses and the Single Market: that is why so many of the measures included in the Single Market Act are aimed at helping small businesses.

This morning we discussed the European Private Company Statute (SPE). Although we have not quite managed this time to reach an agreement, I am confident that we will. This will allow us to create a kind of driver's licence for European small businesses when they want to operate beyond their domestic markets.

This afternoon, we managed to reach agreement on micro-enterprises.

These measures are aimed at very small businesses, such as traders and artisans, with fewer than 10 employees. These businesses have customers and interests that are mostly local in nature. We have to make life easier for them, in the same way as for SMEs and the European Private Company Statute.

Today's agreement means in practical terms the balance sheet and profit and loss accounts for these micro businesses will be pared down to the key elements only. Publication of information will be reduced and simplified to balance sheets only and a one stop shop.

I am confident that this agreement strikes the right balance between the need for simpler procedures and the need for transparency.

It will allow very small businesses to focus on more productive activities than the filling out of administrative documents. They can thus play their full role in consolidating the economic recovery.

And the stakes are not trivial: we believe it is possible that this could mean savings of 3 billion euro per year for 5.2 million micro-businesses in Europe.

Today's agreement is less ambitious than the original proposal of the Commission but nevertheless constitutes real progress for small businesses in Europe. I hope we can make rapid progress with the European Parliament, who has been working hard to make small businesses' lives easier, to conclude an agreement in second reading.

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