Tuesday

11th Aug 2020

Stakeholder

We need to do more for our small and medium-sized enterprises

The importance of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to our economies has long been recognised at EU level.

To be very frank, however, in recent years EU institutions have not delivered: we have heard too many empty speeches with the motto "SMEs are the backbone of our economy" without much follow up.

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  • Martina Dlabajova MEP: 'We will need 'Next Generation EU' and the various multi-annual financial framework (MFF) programmes to complement national schemes and reach as many SMEs as possible, especially in those sectors that have suffered the most' (Photo: Renew)

We tend to make amendments that add "... including SMEs" to proposals, relegating SMEs to the role of an afterthought. The Small Business Act has been largely forgotten and, worse still, we see that the SME Test, which helps implement the important 'Think Small' Principle, has not been consistently applied in legislative proposals.

We need to do more, we need to do better, across EU institutions and political groups. We need to renew Europe's SME focus!

Europe's SMEs are everywhere around us.

They have been responsible for the vast majority of new jobs over the years, and our societies rely on them massively.

Covid-19 has made us realise just how vital our SMEs are, especially as the crisis has placed huge numbers in a precarious financial position and many have had to close their doors, while millions of jobs continue to be at risk.

If improving SMEs access to finance was essential prior to the crisis, it has now become crucial for their very survival.

The challenges that our SMEs are currently facing are so grave that the recovery calls for an unprecedented team effort, where no stone is left unturned.

Much of the focus will be on member states' various national schemes and support programmes, but the EU has an important role to play.

We will need 'Next Generation EU' and the various multi-annual financial framework (MFF) programmes to complement national schemes and reach as many SMEs as possible, especially in those sectors that have suffered the most.

The EU Single Market is critical for SMEs and it is crucial that we restore its full functionality, strengthen it further with the aim of completing it, and seek ways to help SMEs think of future opportunities across Europe and the world.

Digital and Green

We must not forget either that SMEs are at the centre of the twin transition to a green and digital Europe, and a vital source of creativity and innovation - in other words, contributing to Europe's sustainable future growth.

Entrepreneurship and industry are also important parts of the European SME fabric: while companies can scale up and grow, no company was born big, and therefore we need to set the right conditions for entrepreneurship, opportunity for newcomers and true second chance to those struggling.

Many SMEs and entrepreneurs have been able to respond to this crisis, demonstrating how quickly they can adapt and innovate.

This innovation drive and effort must be recognised: SMEs should be at the core of the long-term strategy for European industrial recovery.

My group in the European Parliament, Renew Europe, has just adopted a position paper that highlights our views on SMEs.

We have identified numerous actions, legislations, and initiatives that we intend to develop, monitor and work on. Above all, we have expressed a commitment to look always at EU initiatives and legislation through an 'SME lens'.

We want to see SMEs visibly at the centre of the EU's plans.

As one concrete measure, we have made the call for the commission to come forward with a "State of the SME Union" type of review and debate, to be held annually in the Parliament's plenary sitting.

This would allow us to monitor progress better on this extremely important topic. We need to do more for our SMEs, and we need to start now.

Author bio

Martina Dlabajova is a Czech MEP with the liberal Renew Europe group, vice chair of the budgetary control committee and Renew Europe coordinator for the industry committee.

Disclaimer

This article is sponsored by a third party. All opinions in this article reflect the views of the author and not of EUobserver.

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