Council reaches political agreement on SBA

The Competitiveness Council of Ministers met in Brussels at a meeting haired by Hervé Novelli, the French Minister for State for Business, Trades, Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises, Tourism and Services. The main points on the agenda of the working session were the adoption of the 'Small Business Act for Europe' and the European response to the economic crisis.

The ministers adopted the “Small Business Act for Europe” in favour of European SMEs. The Commission proposed in June a genuine political partnership between the EU and the Member States reflecting the political willingness to recognise the central role of SMEs in the EU economy and to put in place for the first time a comprehensive policy framework for the EU and its Member States. The Commission's proposals were supplemented by an action plan committing the Commission and the Member States to a certain number of priority actions.

In the context of the economic slowdown in Europe, this action plan, initiated by Hervé Novelli, will take immediate action targeted at the SMEs. It will make it easier for SMEs to get financing, reduce their administrative burden, and enable them to fully benefit from the opportunities offered by European and international markets.

The Small Business Act represents a strong political commitment in favour of the 23 million European SMEs, which have been responsible for 80% of job creation in Europe in recent years. The support given to SMEs with this legislative action, is reinforced by general actions such as the recent call of European Parliament to implement measures in order to reduce administrative burdens for SMEs, or the actions taken to facilitate SMEs the access to public procurement and public contracts market.


Responding to the economic crisis

The Commission Vice President, Günther Verheugen, and Commissioner Charlie McCreevy presented the “European plan to boost growth and employment” adopted by the European Commission on November, 26th. In the presence of Jean Pierre Jouyet, the French Minister of State for European Affairs, the ministers had an exchange of views on the European response to the economic crisis.

The proposed actions stimulate employment, support enterprise, and invest in research and technologies of the future, thus giving a budgetary stimulus to the European economy over two years. This issues will continue to be discussed at the ECOFIN Council. With regard to State aid, several delegations suggested temporarily raising the “de minimis” threshold.

In terms of innovation and the competitiveness of the European economy, the minsters adopted conclusions on world class clusters in the European Union. These conclusions favour the emergence of clusters ('poles of competitiveness') in Europe, based on a research-companies-training triptych, which would be able to compete internationally, particularly in leading-edge technology sectors.

Next, the ministers exchanged views on the evolution of the legal framework and policies on gambling and betting, in connection with the growth of online games. The Council has invited the next Presidencies to continue these talks to ensure the smooth operating of the internal market while safeguarding consumer protecton and fighting crime.