Placing European SMEs at a horizontal priority in post-2020 policy making process

Having SME policy as a horizontal priority is an indispensable way to address numerous, cross-cutting challenges that they are currently facing. Current trends cause bigger challenges for SMEs than for bigger companies. Therefore, it is high time for policy makers to act upon it. This was discussed at the conference "Placing European SMEs at a horizontal priority in post-2020 policy making process". The conference took place on 24 October 2019 in Chania, Greece and was organised by the Employers' Group, Chania's Traders Association and the Hellenic Confederation of Commerce and Entrepreneurship.

Speakers from academia and politics discussed the challenges and opportunities caused by digitalisation, access to finance and Single Market on European SMEs. "As European SMEs are going through challenging times, we are trying to table concrete proposals to support their development" – underlined Dimitris Dimitriadis, Vice-President of SMEunited and the Member of the Employers' Group in his opening speech. Jacek Krawczyk, President of the EESC Employers' Group, added that "there needs to be a shift from 'think small first' to 'act small first'. Concrete legislative proposals have to be framed and a clear action plan has to be provided to ensure proper implementation."

The conference was an opportunity to present two recent studies commissioned by the European Economic and Social Committee upon the request of the Employers' Group. The first document analyses how state aid rules affect access to finance for SMEs and enterprises. The second study, entitled "The future of retail in city centres", analyses the retail sector and aims to provide practical insights on revitalising small retailers in urban and rural areas. Both studies can be found on the EESC Employers' Group website: https://europa.eu/!Uy66gk

Speakers agreed that protecting SMEs is crucial for Europe's society as they facilitate growth and are important for social cohesion, for the communities and even for security. SMEs are a cross-cutting issue and should therefore be treated horizontally. However, it is important that policies keep a local perspective.