Document stages in plenary
Document selected : O-000185/2011

Texts tabled :

O-000185/2011 (B7-0430/2011)

Debates :

PV 13/09/2011 - 18
CRE 13/09/2011 - 18

Votes :

Texts adopted :

Parliamentary questions
2 September 2011
Question for oral answer
to the Commission
Rule 115
Michael Theurer, Niccolò Rinaldi, Catherine Bearder, Marielle De Sarnez, Jürgen Creutzmann, on behalf of the ALDE Group
Godelieve Quisthoudt-Rowohl, Othmar Karas, Daniel Caspary, Cristiana Muscardini, on behalf of the PPE Group
Robert Sturdy, on behalf of the ECR Group

 Subject: Internationalisation of European SMEs

Due to globalisation, SMEs face increasing competition from other countries, including from emerging economies outside the EU. This poses both challenges and opportunities. In order to remain competitive, secure growth and support the sustainability of their businesses, SMEs need to engage in international activities (i.e. import, export, conducting foreign direct investment, acting as, or using, foreign subcontractors). However, only a small percentage of European SMEs trade with third countries despite representing over 90% of EU businesses: only 29% of EU SMEs import (of which 50% import from countries outside the Internal Market) and only 25% of EU SMEs export (of which 50% go beyond the Internal Market)(1).

1. SMEs are not sufficiently aware of public support programmes such as the Enterprise Europe Network or information resources such as the Market Access Database and the Export Helpdesk. What concrete measures is the Commission planning to take to better inform SMEs of the available tools and programmes?

2. How will the Commission ensure that security-related adjustments and modifications to the Modernised Customs Code do not interfere with existing simplified methods and lead to competitive disadvantages?

3. What added value do European Business Centres give in supporting the internationalisation of SMEs compared to existing structures abroad (such as the European External Action Service, bilateral Chambers of Commerce or national business organisations) and how will duplication of effort be avoided? What initiatives is the Commission taking to establish business links between European SMEs and foreign SMEs through Chambers of Commerce and other schemes?

4. Public procurement in third countries provides an important market for European SMEs (often 10-15% of GDP). However, third countries often restrict access for EU companies and SMEs in particular. What actions does the Commission envisage to increase SME access to public procurement markets in third countries?

5. Different product standards often pose an obstacle to international trade. SMEs in particular often do not have the means to adapt their products to the needs of different countries’ markets. How does the Commission take the specific needs of SMEs into account when promoting the international convergence of standards?

(1) Sources: "Internationalisation of European SMEs", Final Report, European Commission, 2010,

Last updated: 6 September 2011Legal notice