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European Commission Vice-President for Industry and Entrepreneurship
SMEs Finance Forum
2 May 2013
Ladies and gentlemen,
Good afternoon. It is a great pleasure to be here. I would like to thank Mr Richard Bruton, Irish minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation and Secretary General John Murphy for hosting us today.
I apologize that I could not join you in this meeting earlier. We had an important College meeting today. But I would like to thank Daniel Calleja, our European SME Envoy, for chairing today’s meeting.
Daniel is the permanent defender of SME interests and I asked him to report back on the discussions today and your recommendations.
I am honoured by the presence of our guests who are all recognized experts dedicated to Europe. I would like to especially thank the members of the European Parliament as well as Dario Scannapieco, Richard Pelly and Professor Josh Lerner. Your long-term commitment to SMEs is widely recognized.
Thank you all for taking part in the discussions with commitment and passion. This shows that issues discussed today are very important.
Your opinion will help to shape the thinking of the Commission on the policy priorities for the years to come. As a first step I will report back on your recommendations to the Informal Competiveness Council meeting tomorrow.
And so it is fitting that Ireland has assumed the European Union presidency at this moment in history. The presidency’s theme is “stability, growth, and jobs”. This is exactly the right focus.
The Commission has tabled several initiatives in the field and we will work together with you to implement these proposals. We have proposed an Action Plan to improve access to finance for SMEs which contains various initiatives and funding measures to enable a better flow of credit and equity to European SMEs.
I would like to present today 10 key milestones:
1. Results of current financial instruments and joint EIB/ EC report
Firstly, I would like to mention the results of current EU financial instruments, such as the Competitiveness and Innovation Framework Programme (CIP). This is the last year of the programme and so far it has been very successful:
By the end of December 2012, we mobilised almost 13 billion EUR of guarantees and more than 2.3 billion EUR of venture capital. Over 220,000 SMEs had already benefited from the programme across Europe.
I have asked to transfer an additional budget of EUR 19 million to the CIP financial instruments.
Altogether, during 2012, the EIB Group provided EUR 13 billion of finance to more than 200,000 SMEs and small midcaps.
Today we presented together with the European Investment Bank a joint report on the accomplishments of the EIB and the European Commission in facilitating access to finance for SMEs.
2. Start of technical preparations of COSME & EIB capital increase
Secondly, the Commission has put forward its proposals for the new generation of financial instruments.
I am pleased to say that we recently started the advanced negotiations with Parliament and Council and the technical preparations of COSME.
The new COSME programme will largely build on the experience from the current CIP providing guarantees and venture capital. COSME will work in conjunction with Horizon 2020.
I also welcome the important enhancement of financial resources for SMEs through the increase of the capital of the European Investment Bank with EUR 10 billion. Vice President Dario Scannapieco already presented an outlook of EIB activity in the future.
3. Agreement on Basel III
The Commission has also proposed legislation to improve the efficiency of financial markets. I welcome the final agreement reached last month on the review of the Capital Requirements Directive, Basel III.
The new framework will make banks more solid. In order to ensure an appropriate flow of credit to SMEs in the current difficult economic context, the new rules will introduce a reduction in the capital charges for exposures to SMEs through the application of a supporting factor equal to 0.76.
This will provide credit institutions with an appropriate incentive to increase the available credit to SMEs.
4. Better integration of the venture capital market
I warmly welcome the agreement of the Parliament and Council last month on the regulation on Venture Capital Funds. This means that venture capitals can operate more efficiently within the European Union. Fund managers can now have a European passport and market their funds across the EU.
I am pleased that Professor Josh Lerner is with us here today and would like to thank him for his recommendations in the field of venture capital.
5. Own initiative's report of the Parliament on access to finance
I am very grateful for the support of the European Parliament in helping to implement the Action Plan to improve access to finance for SMEs. I also welcome the support of my dear colleague from the European Parliament, Mr Philippe de Backer, and his recent own initiative's report which can be seen as another important milestone.
I share the ambitions of his report and I believe we should take appropriate actions to implement the ideas.
6. Launch of single online portal on all EU financial instruments for SMEs
We are also working on simplification and to improve the communication to SMEs. I am pleased to announce that we just launched a single online portal on all EU financial instruments for SMEs. It provides SMEs a single access point: simple and easy access to all EU financing programmes such as CIP, Progress, RSI, EIB loans and Structural Funds.
The portal covers over 500 intermediaries which represent our partners in helping SMEs access finance. The portal is accessible in all EU languages and for all EU and candidate countries.
One of the key priorities for the Commission is simplification. The launch of the single portal represents an important milestone in this perspective.
7. Launch of EU finance days campaign
I am also very pleased that we will launch in September this year the “EU finance days for SMEs”. During this important information campaign we will have workshops in the Member States to promote the use of EU financial instruments in the period 2014-2020 such as COSME.
We will visit each Member State. We will invite you and your national members to participate at the workshops. This is an important aspect to successfully implement the forthcoming generation of EU financial instruments for SMEs.
8. Better access to equity markets
We also try to promote SME listings and investors' interest in this segment with a targeted information campaign:
We just launched a web-based information guide for listings. This tool provides advice to small and medium-sized businesses on how to go public. It will be combined with the creation of an award to reward the best European stock market listings among small and mid-cap companies.
These initiatives aim to promote access to equity capital and stimulate investors’ interest in SMEs and mid-caps.
I hope that despite the challenging environment we can help more SMEs to go public on a stock market and access growth capital. We know that SMEs need better access to alternative sources of finance.
9. Entrepreneurship 2020 Action Plan
In January the Commission adopted the Entrepreneurship 2020 Action Plan to make it easier and more attractive for Europeans to start their own businesses. The plan includes specific measures to facilitate start-ups, make transfers of businesses more successful, improve access to finance, and give entrepreneurs a second chance after bankruptcy.
10. Late Payments Directive
Every day across Europe, dozens of small and medium sized enterprises go bankrupt as their invoices are not paid. As a result jobs are lost and business opportunities remain unexploited, stalling our return to economic growth.
To end late payments we adopted the Late Payments Directive and launched an information campaign across all Member States to inform SMEs about the new rights.
The Late Payments Directive was transposed by Member States this year and gives SMEs the vital support they need in these difficult times.
Last, but certainly not least: We recently published a Green Paper that launches a public consultation on how to foster the supply of long-term financing.
Europe faces large-scale long-term investment needs such as in the field of energy, transport or research and development, which are crucial to support sustainable growth.
The Green Paper puts forward ideas to facilitate SMEs’ access to alternative sources of finance such as dedicated SME markets, securitisation or crowd-funding.
We need to continue and look for new ideas. This is why I encourage all of you to participate in our public consultation which is open until 25 June 2013.
A lot still has to be done.
It is by working together that we will find the best ways of encouraging long-term investment. Laying the groundwork for stronger growth and more jobs in Europe.
I would like to thank the Irish presidency for their support.
Thank you for your attention; I would now like to give the floor to Mr Richard Bruton, Irish Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation.