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Access to finance for SMEs

Key points:

Inadequate supply of financing has been constraining investment by SMEs since 2008. Decisive measures are urgently needed. The EESC has examined this question and wants to draw the attention to the following:

  • SMEs' needs, structures and capacities vary. A comprehensive study on the main types of SMEs and mid-caps across all 28 Member States, their relative weight and relative contribution to jobs and growth is a necessary prerequisite for policy action;
  • the standard European definition of the terms micro, small and medium-sized under EU Recommendation 2003/361 has to be updated to better reflect the variety of SMEs;
  • for the current programming period (2014-2020), the allocated amount of financing, the structure of these instruments and the access to them needs to be improved;
  • a large number of impediments in terms of both supply of and demand for bank loans for SMEs have to be addressed at European level;
  • in order to enhance the lending capacity of banks, a careful revival of the securitisation markets needs to be encouraged;
  • capital requirements for banks and insurance companies should be calibrated in a way that does not discourage investment in assets that are essential for SME growth (equity, securitised SME loan portfolios, SME bonds);
  • market-based financing should be strengthened, and cross border investment operations need to be promoted;
  • the credit lines offered by the EIB and the EIF should be better structured so as to match better the needs of the different SMEs;
  • the transparency of how the local commercial banks, promotional banks or other intermediaries distribute these funds should be significantly improved;
  • innovative financing schemes and instruments (e.g. the SME instrument under Horizon 2020) should be properly adjusted to the needs of enterprises of different sizes and stages of development and to the specific situations in different countries;
  • greater awareness of the possibilities of obtaining funding from EU programmes at national level is necessary, as well as better follow-up and monitoring;
  • greater involvement of financial institutions and SME organisations as intermediaries between SMEs and EU programmes is advisable;
  • national governments should set up an "SME Intergroup" in all Member States to make information loops and efficient collaboration possible. Thinking about SMEs is not enough - the focus needs to be on action.