Draft legislation designed to increase the competitiveness of Europe's SMEs by improving their access to finance and promoting entrepreneurship under the EU's next long-term budget was beefed up by the industry committee on Thursday, with a view to negotiations with the Council.
"Today the industry committee sent out a strong signal to boost SMEs in Europe. My report sets out ambitious objectives and specific actions in the fields of access to finance, administrative burden reduction and access to markets. In order to be able to implement these actions, it is crucial that, in the next multiannual financial framework, member states increase spending on growth and innovation programmes with European added value such as COSME and not cut their budget", said the rapporteur Jürgen Creutzmann (ALDE, DE)
The main aim of the new programme for SMEs (known as COSME) is to cut red tape and facilitate access to finance for EU enterprises. Reducing the number of days to set up a new SME to three, cutting start-up costs to €100 and having a one-stop shop for business start-ups in all member states are some of the goals explicitly set by MEPs in the text they adopted.
Access to financing
The committee voted for 60 % of the €2.5 billion budget earmarked for the new programme to be allocated to financial instruments. It insisted that all SMEs, not just innovative ones, should get funding at every stage of their life-cycle. "in their start-up, growth and transfer phases without any distinctions based on activity or market size".
These financial instruments would include an equity facility and a loan guarantee facility. The Equity Facility for Growth (EFG) would focus on funds such as venture capital whilst the Loan Guarantee Facility (LGF) would provide direct guarantees and risk sharing arrangements for guarantee schemes.
MEPs also adopted an amendment asking for at least 0.5% of the total long-term budget for 2014-2020 to be allocated to the implementation of COSME, up from the 0.2% proposed by the Commission.
The Enterprise Europe Network
The Enterprise Europe Network works as a one-stop-shop for business support services by helping enterprises to improve their competitiveness and explore business opportunities in the single market and non-EU countries. Its activities would be continued and enhanced under the new programme. (
The COSME programme would support initiatives with "clear European added value" in the field of tourism, which contributes 10% of EU GDP and 12% of the EU's total employment.
SMEs are a key driver of economic growth and employment, accounting for 99% of the enterprises in the EU, more than 67% of private-sector jobs and 80% of newly-created jobs. They provide more than 58% of total turnover in the EU.
However, entrepreneurship is still low in the EU with only 45% of EU citizens choosing to be self-employed compared to 55% in the US and 71% in China. According to estimates, only 25% of SMEs currently export or have exported at some point over the last three years, only13% of them export outside the EU on a regular basis and only 2% have invested outside their home country.
The amendments to the draft legislation were adopted by 49 votes to 1, with 2 abstentions. This vote provides a mandate to start negotiations with the Council with a view to a possible first-reading agreement.
In the Chair: Amalia Sartori (EPP, IT)