Cutting red tape is key for SMEs

At the public hearing held on 28 June in the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) on the "Review of the Small Business Act for Europe (SBA, Europe’s policy framework for SMEs)", participants called for cutting red tape, strengthening governance instruments and drawing up a genuine road map for progress. In this hearing, other EU Institutions and major stakeholders were present and met Members of the EESC.

The European Commission adopted the "Review of the Small Business Act for Europe", Europe’s policy framework for small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) on 23 February 2011. The review was under consideration by the Competitiveness Council on 30 of May. Among its conclusions, the Council stressed the importance of a simplified, lighter, clear and consistent regulatory and Council administrative environment where SMEs operate on the basis of smart regulation principles.

The review presents an overview of the progress made in implementing the SBA launched by the Commission in 2008 and proposes ways to improve its uptake. Although it maintains the ten guiding principles, insists on the full implementation of the existing measures set out in the SBA, in particular the “Think Small First” principle. Furthermore, new measures are proposed to take into account the latest economic developments and ensure a close link with the priorities of the Europe 2020 strategy.

Although the participants at the hearing welcomed the progress achieved in implementing the SBA they called for new measures to respond to the challenges resulting from the economic crisis. Among these actions, they asked for developing indicators for monitoring, designed to bring genuine added value to entrepreneurs in Europe, where SMEs are play an essential role. The EU's 23 million SMEs account for 99% of all businesses and contribute up to 80% of employment in some industrial sectors, such as textiles.

In addition, stakeholders added that the approach taken towards SMEs was still too general and that intermediary organisations should be given top priority in future measures. Mr Ronny Lannoo, responsible for the EESC opinion on the "Review of the Small Business Act for Europe", highlighted the fact that the Communication was far more realistic and closer to SMEs' needs, although many areas of doubt remained and some measures seemed far removed from real life, or only relevant to very few businesses.