The voice of SMEs in Europe – UEAPME to further engage with the Employers' Group to foster closer cooperation

More attention to the needs of SMEs and family businesses, easier access to finance, fewer bureaucratic burdens, simplification of taxation systems and proper coordination to respond to current challenges – these were some of the priorities highlighted by the newly-elected President of UEAPME, Ulrike Rabmer-Koller.

In order to foster further cooperation and coordinate their common interests, the Employers' Group had the great pleasure of welcoming the UEAPME President, Ulrike Rabmer-Koller, and UEAPME Secretary-General, Véronique Willems, to the first Group meeting of 2017 in order to discuss the state of play of SMEs in Europe and the goals and priorities that they were aiming for.

"SMEs are the backbone of our economy and the biggest stimulators for growth in Europe", said President Rabmer-Koller. She pledged to make Europe more attractive to investors and to envisage an EU SME policy that had SMEs' actual needs in mind. As a representative of millions of SMEs in Europe, UEAPME called for further improvements in access to finance for all types of SMEs and family businesses, not just for innovative start-ups. While welcoming the EFSI SME Window, COSME and Horizon 2020 programmes, UEAPME believed that further progress was needed in order to ensure easier access to finance, set out the right regulatory frameworks and simplify the tax regimes.

"SMEs need a proper environment in order to create growth and reach convergence among different Member States. In order to have sustainable systems we need stronger cooperation between public authorities, SMEs, social partners and labour market inspectors," added Ms Rabmer-Koller.  With regard to current challenges related to skills mismatches and the emergence of new types of work models, the UEAPME president believed Europe needed to anticipate changes and prepare for possible threats and challenges. Talking specifically about digitalization, she believed the European Commission should be very careful when passing new legislation because it would only trigger additional burdens for SMEs, which would be an obstacle to growth.

"The Employers' Group's priorities regarding SMEs are fully aligned with those of UEAPME and we are looking forward to further fruitful cooperation with you," said Jacek Krawczyk, President of the Employers' Group. He recalled that in April last year the group organised the SME Round Table, where representatives of all major European employers' organisations had the opportunity to engage in a frank and open discussion with the EU commissioner responsible for SMEs, Elżbieta Bieńkowska. He also noted that the group would organise a conference devoted to private investment during the Maltese Presidency and invited UEAPME representatives to participate.

UEAPME (Union Européenne de l’Artisanat et des Petites et Moyennes Entreprises) is the employer’s organisation representing the interests of European crafts, trades and SMEs at EU level. UEAPME is a recognised European Social Partner and acts on behalf of crafts and SMEs in the European Social Dialogue and in discussions with the EU institutions. UEAPME is one of the main partner organisations of the Employers' Group.

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