The benefits of digitalisation for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are multiple, allowing them to boost competitiveness, expand market access and improve customer relations. In an information report adopted at its December plenary session, the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) considers it necessary to support the digital transformation of SMEs with measures adapted to the specific needs of different types of companies.
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.
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.
According to the EESC, the European manufacturing system can only make an effective and competitive transition to a cutting-edge digital and environmentally friendly economy when it is ready for significant investments in innovation. As the main job creators and providers, small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) need particular support. The steps planned by the European Commission to facilitate better development of the manufacturing system should therefore be consistently based on real awareness of companies' – especially SMEs' – needs.
A fair, competitive and sustainable business environment that encourages enterprises to grow innovate, invest and trade – this is what representatives of the European employers ask from the next European Commission and Member States. The participants of the European Entrepreneurship Forum taking place in Bucharest agreed that it is time for a political recognition of SMEs – shifting from "think small first" approach to "act small first" principle.
A new VAT system for taxing trade between Member States must tap its full potential and limit any possible negative effects for the single market, says the European Economic and Social Committee in its recently adopted opinion on a proposal presented by the European Commission. Greater collaboration between national authorities and extensive communication by the Commission will be key to its successful implementation. Clarifications are needed on some proposed concepts and criteria and a common system for goods and services must follow as soon as possible.
The main SME instruments, in particular two programmes - COSME and the SME Instrument - were the main subject of the exchange of views between the category members and Mr Julien Guerrier, the Director of the Executive Agency for Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (EASME).
Lack of awareness, underdeveloped infrastructure, high investment costs as well as skills shortages and mismatches – these are some of the challenges that SMEs are facing when trying to benefit from the digital revolution. The participants of the conference "How to support businesses in the digital age – SMEs go digital" tried to identify potential obstacles and propose solutions to address them in the future. The event took place on 24 October 2018 in Vienna, Austria.
Stakeholders stressed the importance of cohesion policy and the need for appropriate and effective funding
The EU crowdfunding framework proposed by the European Commission will help to build a capital markets union, foster innovation and support entrepreneurs and SMEs across the EU, says the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) in a recently adopted opinion, which strongly supports the Commission's proposals. The proposed regulatory framework – a 29th regime, to exist in parallel with the 28 national regimes – will allow small, young and innovative enterprises in particular to strive for financing in all EU Member States.