19th Mar 2018

Commission to send its staff for internships in firms

The European Commission will send 350 of its senior officials for one week internships in small companies - such as bakeries or carpentry firms - so that they can learn about small businesses (SMEs) for which they draft European laws.

EU industry commissioner Gunter Verheugen presented the intitiative on Monday (17 July), announcing that the first 50 civil servants would leave the Brussels' headquarters of the EU executive and set out for traineeships across the member states already this year.

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"We don't need an ivory tower policy," commented Mr Verheugen, suggesting that by acquiring such a "hands-on experience" in SMEs, the commission's administrators will understand their problems better and become their "ambassadors."

The companies to host the EU bureaucrats will be picked by three key pan-European industry groups, including UEAPME - the small businesses lobby which has in the past often criticised the commission for its focus on big business in policy-making.

Its secretary-general Hans-Werner Muller has welcomed the new initiative, arguing that visiting officials will be able to see for themselves "how the small size of micro-businesses makes them more vulnerable to excessive, unnecessary or over-complex legislation."

"We hope they take this message back to Brussels," added Mr Muller.

Marie-Elizabeth Rusling from Eurochambers, another group paticipating in the project commented: "it is a small step and it will still take longer before we move beyond buzzwords that SMEs have become in the commission's rhetoric and the real moves to reflect their concerns in policy-making."

She added that pilot projects that preceded the official launch of the internship scheme have showed EU officials were often surprised by critical questions from the businessmen they had been shadowing.

"They mainly expected to look around and see how small firms in particular sectors were running, but in fact they also had to explain to their hosts the nature of Brussels' business," Ms Rusling told EUobserver.


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