The EESC issues between 160 and 190 opinions and information reports a year.
It also organises several annual initiatives and events with a focus on civil society and citizens’ participation such as the Civil Society Prize, the Civil Society Days, the Your Europe, Your Say youth plenary and the ECI Day.
The EESC brings together representatives from all areas of organised civil society, who give their independent advice on EU policies and legislation. The EESC's326 Members are organised into three groups: Employers, Workers and Various Interests.
The EESC has six sections, specialising in concrete topics of relevance to the citizens of the European Union, ranging from social to economic affairs, energy, environment, external relations or the internal market.
Dr Angelika Winzig, Member of the European Parliament, joined the EESC's SMEs, Crafts and Family Business Category meeting on 13 November to discuss current priorities and challenges for Europe's SMEs and their competitiveness on a global scale.
In her presentation, Dr Winzig highlighted five issues that need to be addressed in order to enhance the competitiveness of European SMEs:
Finding suitable employees: More and more SMEs face difficulties in finding properly skilled employees. The dual apprenticeship system, such as the one operating in Germany, Austria and Switzerland, is a very good tool for providing skilled staff. Those countries could serve as an example for other regions in Europe.
Bureaucracy: SMEs still face disproportionate red tape. The variety of sectors SMEs operate in makes it hard to find a common denominator for well-functioning and easy regulation. SMEs need sufficient help to be able to cut through the red tape.
Access to finance: SMEs need an easier access to financing and information about all the options that exist. We have to provide financing solutions alongside the traditional banking system.
Climate change: The transition to climate-neutral solutions could be an opportunity for SMEs and they could play a vital part in addressing climate change. However, this also poses challenges as soon as new technologies imply an unproportioned financial burden for SMEs. These challenges have to be kept in mind when adopting new resolutions.
Research and development: In their day-to-day business, SMEs often do not have the time or resources to engage in R&D activities. SMEs have to keep up with new technologies in order to stay competitive.
The SME Category, with Spokesperson Pietro De Lotto agreed about the challenges identified by Dr Winzig. Mr De Lotto added that the interests of European SMEs should be expressed with a single, strong voice.
Dr Winzig started her term at the European Parliament in July 2019. She is also the CEO of Powder Tech Dr Winzig GmbH. Her political roles bring her into contact with SMEs at the regional, national and European levels.