The EU actively supports businesses, especially small ones, giving free, personalised assistance through a series of pan-European networks and services:
Enterprise Europe Network
The Enterprise Europe Network offers a one-stop shop to meet the needs of businesses in the EU. It provides information and assistance on a wide range of issues, including:
- cross-border activities;
- innovation and technology;
- access to finance and programmes;
- business cooperation.
It helps companies understand the EU laws directly related to their activities.
The network also provides information through awareness-raising activities (trade fairs, seminars, lectures and workshops) and a range of publications in local languages (guides, newsletters, websites).
Businesses have access to the network via 600 local contact points which ensure wide geographic coverage in about 49 countries across Europe and beyond. A large team (almost 4000-strong) of experienced staff with backgrounds in business, industry and research is on hand for companies in need of advice.
Most partners in the network are from qualified regional organisations such as chambers of commerce, business organisations, regional development agencies and university technology centres.
SOLVIT helps businesses solve concrete cross-border problems arising from the misapplication of EU rules by public authorities, including:
- market access for products;
- provision of services;
- going self-employed;
- public contracts;
- tax or VAT reimbursements;
- border controls.
Available in all official EU languages, SOLVIT finds pragmatic solutions through peer pressure and cooperation with the administrations involved, within ten weeks. To do so, the business's local SOLVIT centre works closely with the centre of the country where the problem occurred.
SOLVIT consists of 30 centres, each part of a national administration, in every EU country and in Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway.
European Employment Services (EURES)
EURES offers employers and jobseekers information and support on recruitment and job opportunities throughout the EU. In border regions, EURES provides information on cross-border commuting and helps workers and employers with any problems they may encounter.
The 700 advisers at EURES form a cooperation network between the European Commission and the public employment services in the EU countries, Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Switzerland.
European Consumer Centres Network (ECC-NET)
The European Consumer Centres Network, jointly set up by the EU and EU countries, provides help in business-to-consumer problems when consumers shop across borders either in person or through distance selling (mainly internet shopping).
The network helps consumers solve their problems with traders - either amicably or by finding an appropriate out-of-court settlement scheme (alternative dispute resolution). It also provides information on EU and national consumer protection rules.
The network consists of 29 consumer centres in all EU countries plus Iceland and Norway.
Businesses can lodge complaints with the European Ombudsman about maladministration by EU institutions and bodies, such as late payments, contractual disputes, problems with calls for tender or refusal of access to documents.
Companies often have dealings with EU institutions when taking part in EU-backed projects and may therefore come across problems that the Ombudsman can solve.
Interactive Policy Making
Interactive Policy Making is an online questionnaire management system. Its objective is to help both EU countries' administrations and EU institutions to understand the needs of citizens and enterprises better.
China IPR SME Helpdesk
The China IPR SME Helpdesk is a FREE service providing small and medium-sized businesses with the tools to manage their intellectual property rights (IPR) when doing business in China.
In order to ensure businesses are more prepared, the IPR SME Helpdesk provides:
- Bespoke expert advice on protection and enforcement of your intellectual property available by email, phone, the online portal or face-to-face;
- Industry and IP specific events conducted throughout China and Europe;
- Guides and practical material available in English, French, German, Italian, Spanish and Polish.
The IPR SME Helpdesk aims to help you make more informative decisions when conducting business in China.
Communicating with businesses
The EU institutions ensure companies can access all information relevant to their activities. They also hold ongoing dialogue with businesses and involve them in the decision-making process - both through associations and individually.
European Small Business Portal
A single portal packed with links to information on EU policies, programmes, projects, tools and services aimed at small companies is provided by the European Commission. The portal is available in 21 languages.
Communication and Information Resource Centre for Administrations, Businesses and Citizens
The Communication and Information Resource Centre for Administrations, Businesses and Citizens (CIRCABC) is an open-source, web-based application used to create collaborative workspaces. It makes public administration documents more accessible and harmonised for businesses and private associations.
EUROCHAMBRES, the Association of European Chambers of Commerce and Industry, represents national chambers of commerce and industry from across Europe.
Its mission is to give them a stronger voice and position on all major economic issues, ensuring their involvement in projects of value to business, delivering services to its members, and developing a European support network for enterprises.
EUROCHAMBRES represents over 20 million enterprises in Europe - 93% of which are SMEs - through members in 45 countries and a European network of 2000 regional and local Chambers.
BUSINESSEUROPE represents more than 20 million small, medium and large companies through its members, 41 leading national business organisations in 35 countries.
Its mission is to strengthen the competitiveness of the European economy in order to increase prosperity and opportunities for all Europeans.
The European Association of Craft, Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (UEAPME) voices the interests of European crafts, trades and small businesses in the EU institutions.
It provides its members with support and information on EU policy. It is also directly involved in all EU legislation affecting small businesses. It is an employers' organisation recognised as a European social partner.
UEAPME consists of 85 member organisations (national small business organisations, chambers of crafts and European sectoral organisations) representing over 12 million small and medium-sized businesses and employing 55 million people all over Europe.
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