EU Enterprise and Industry Commissioner Günter Verheugen has announced that they will launch a new strategy for small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) in the autumn. The strategy will have six principal aims relating to bureaucracy, standardisation, the awarding of public contracts, financial instruments, entrepreneurial spirit and dialogue between the EU institutions and SMEs.
‘I will concentrate on the practical difficulties that SMEs have, and in particular on the creation and growth phases. My goal is that EU policies in all areas become SME friendly,’ Mr Verheugen told participants in a craft day in Paderbon, Germany.
The strategy will have six principal aims relating to bureaucracy, standardisation, the awarding of public contracts, financial instruments, entrepreneurial spirit and dialogue between the EU institutions and SMEs.
Longwinded, bureaucratic administrative processes and unnecessarily complicated laws are a burden for SMEs, and must be minimised as a priority, said the Commissioner. He made a commitment himself to verify that all proposals that are to be put forward by the Commission, as well as those currently undergoing review, favour the competitiveness of SMEs.
The awarding of public contracts to SMEs, particularly SMEs from another country, is still very low, according to Mr Verheugen. One of the reasons for this is that fewer than five per cent of European handicraft enterprises are internationally active – a figure that has hardly changed over the past ten years. The EU must facilitate the crossover to the EU’s internal market, while Member States must ensure that SMEs are well represented in terms of public contracts in national and regional markets, said the Commissioner.
Access to finance is a key question for the growth of SMEs. The Commission has already organised talks between banks and SMEs in order to address the issue. New approaches must also be agreed in order to stimulate risk capital for SMEs, emphasised the Commissioner. The Commission has already proposed, under the umbrella of the Competitiveness and Innovation Framework Programme (CIP), introducing a new instrument for securing bank credits through sales to external investors. In particular, this will allow small regional banks to award new SME credits. ‘Everything now depends upon whether, and to what level, the Member States agree to this proposal within the framework of discussions on the next Community budget from 2007 to 2013,’ said Mr Verheugen.
The Commissioner closed by calling for a more intensive dialogue between SMEs and the European Commission. ‘You have to know what we are doing, and on the other hand have adequate opportunity to bring in your perspectives, before the horse has bolted,’ said Mr Verheugen.