Sunday

17th Nov 2019

Opinion

Wishlist for Goulard at European Parliament grilling

  • Sylvie Goulard in 2017, with French president Emmanuel Macron. 'As competition commissioner, you will take on a responsibility to counteract recent developments, which have undermined Europe's position in the world economy for at least a decade.' (Photo: European Parliament)

First I would like to congratulate you, Mrs Goulard, on your nomination to the post of commissioner.

Your designated portfolio is the core on which our union was founded. It is a cornerstone in need of big and bold reform in order not only to sustain, but to thrive.

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Your actions will be crucial for the future of the entire European Union. With this new position, you will take on a responsibility to counteract recent developments, which have undermined Europe's position in the world economy for at least a decade.

Europe is falling behind in the global competition.

There are many reasons for this, but the most obvious one is that it is too difficult and too expensive to do business here.

Both the EU and its individual member states are overly bureaucratic and its companies are tied up, and weighed down, by far too many unnecessary rules and regulations.

This hurts Europe's competitiveness and the consequences of the deficient policies are obvious to individual entrepreneurs today, and will in time be equally obvious to all Europeans.

Compared to other major economies in the world, the EU is underperforming gravely.

As the European economy has grown by 15 percent the last ten years, the American economy has done so by 70 percent.

The growth of Indian and Chinese economies is even more impressive - up 80 and 400 percent respectively.

It certainly benefits the world as a whole that major economies are growing, but the uneven concentration of growth is challenging for the EU.

The fact that other economies are performing so much better will mean that Europe will lose both prosperity and influence if nothing is done, and remaining passive is not an option for anyone who knows that the EU has the potential to do so much better.

As you know, four-out-of-five jobs are created in small and medium sized enterprises.

Despite the fact that our entrepreneurs are the motors powering our economic development, their conditions are rarely on the agenda of EU decision makers.

"Little talk, even less action", one could summarise the past years' outcomes from EU business policy. The lack of focus on entrepreneurship and competitiveness has consequences. Investors stay away. Unemployment rises. Prosperity is lost.

This should be EU politicians' most important challenge. There is no time to lose if we want Europe to move ahead - and stay ahead - in global competition.

That Europe is losing ground to other major economies is not something predestined. We ourselves decide what conditions we want European entrepreneurs to have.

As commissioner, you will be in control of the single most important tool to improve Europe's competitiveness - the internal market.

It must once again become the core in EU policy making, and be subject to major reform in order to fully unleash its potential. I want to point out three issues that I believe you should prioritise in the years to come.

Cut bureaucracy

The EU is overly bureaucratic, both in itself and on the member state level.

Despite promises made by the former commission to decrease the regulatory burden on businesses, new rules and costs have been added upon already strained business-owners.

Commission president-elect Ursula von der Leyen has set forth an ambition to implement a 'one in-one out' policy on regulations effecting businesses.

This is a good principle, but not even close to sufficient to tackle EU's lack of competitiveness.

This would merely conserve status quo, and must be combined with much bolder reforms to cut the overall regulatory burden. A promise to cut 1,000 outdated rules would be a good start.

Small businesses in trade policy

Small size businesses make up more than 75 percent of EU companies, but only 14 percent of European exports.

Needless to say, there is enormous potential for increased economic growth and prosperity if the small businesses were to be given more favourable conditions to trade with the outside world.

Trade regulations must be scrutinised from a small business perspective, and all new trade agreements should have comprehensive and potent SME chapters, to pave the way for more small business export.

Think small first

Almost every political decision taken in Brussels affects European small business owners, whether it concerns new regulations or public spending.

Despite this, the assessments in business policy are often done through the perspective of large and resourceful enterprises, which are in general the most adaptable to changes in legislation whatever they may be.

It is crucial that this perspective is flipped, so that policymakers first and foremost evaluate proposals through the perspective of small businesses.

"Think small first" is a great principle for policymaking, and as the new commissioner for the internal market I hope that you will stand in the front line in advocating for its full implementation in all EU institutions.

I count on you to be a strong advocate for Europe's entrepreneurs and that you will join those of us in parliament who are passionate about improving European competitiveness.

Preserving status quo is not an option - we can, and should, do much more for our small business owners. That will make for a brighter future not only for them, but for all people in the European Union.

Author bio

Jorgen Warborn is a Swedish MEP from the Moderate Party/European People's Party group, and former businessman.

Disclaimer

The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author's, not those of EUobserver.

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