“Moving Barriers and Pushing Limits: Looking into the European SME Policy – Accomplishments and Goals still Pending”

By Sofie Schoepf

On Tuesday, July 16th we all gathered in Strasbourg for an intense discussion on the upcoming SME Agenda for the next Parliamentary term. The interest for the topic was unprecendented and we all enjoyed the interventions of  SME executives and experts, presenting their sectorial opportunities and challenges of the coming years to the newly (re-)elected MEPs of the EPP. With this Working Dinner SME Europe aims to create an informative and sustainable exchange, that will support European SMEs and ensure further European prosperity.

“By helping SMEs, you help our citizens!”

Ivan Stefanec MEP, President SME Europe

We started with the Introduction by Ivan Stefanec MEP (President SME Europe). The copyright reform and decreasing roaming charges were only two of the successes mentioned by Mr. Stefanec as he referred to past accomplishments impacting not only the SMEs but each European citizen. He made it clear that the focus of interest for SME policy in the following years, is going to be put on greater investments on one hand. On the other hand, there should be the option for better trade deals, while opting for a European digital single market and reforming the already existing capital ones. 

“The Policy of SMEs will become more political.”

Dr. Horst Heitz, Executive Director SME Europe

Dr. Horst Heitz (Executive Director SME Europe) further underlined the huge importance of politically organized SMEs in the future and their ability to see advantages while may also tackling challenges of free trade and digitalization as a united force.

“We need to stay open; we need to be a leader in open markets as Europe, we need to not go down that path.”

Christoph Gosau, Head of Unit European Economic Policy Brussels, Association of German Chambers of Industry and Commerce

Dr.Christoph Gosau (Head of Unit European Economic Policy Brussels, Association of German Chambers of Industry and Commerce) would welcome such a progress, making it possible to, amongst others, decreasing the labor gap and positioning the EU as serious and fair competitor for China and the US.

Markus Ferber MEP (Senator SME Europe), Amrit Constanze Rescheneder (Head of European Affairs, Sparkasse Association Austria) and Michael Jaeger (Secretary General, Taxpayers Association Europe) each conveyed the importance of SME friendly policy on a whole other aspect. Approaching the topic of Taxesfirst, Mr. Ferber made aware that SMEs do not have the chance to overcome the tax “burden”, quite contrary to huge international companies, mentioning tax equality as one of the goals still pending. Ms. Rescheneder further fueled the discourse by taking the capital market into consideration and making a call for SME policy on the aspect of Finance. With a vision for Europe and a vision for European tax systems, Mr. Jaeger concluded on the topic of Finance & Taxes with some questions for constructive discussion.

“We should have the same rules in the online world and the offline world.”

Henna Virkkunen MEP

Digital Economy, unifying mentioned and following issues, certainly once again led to the topic of a single digital market, as Henna Virkkunen MEPmentioned investments that should better education and skills with the focus on digitalization.

“We believe that the future EU regulation should be based on evidence and not on myth and we hope and we encourage all of you to work with us to develop a thriving European digital single market where European SMEs can grow and compete globally.”

Christian Borggreen, Vice President, Computer & Communications Industry Association

Within the European SME policy, Tradeplays another crucial role, which the audience was made aware of by Iuliu Winkler MEP(First Vice-President SME Europe) followed by Harald Past(Head of International Trade & Taxation, Eurocommerce). Goals in the trade sector regarding SME friendly policy should be the possibility of free trade and the demanding of open markets, in a multilateral framework, where trading partners properly work together. Cause as Mr. Past put it correctly:

“The best trade agreement does not bring us anything if the companies do not benefit at the end.”

Harald Past, Head of International Trade & Taxation, Eurocommerce

Via a video message, Claudia Monteiro de Aguiar MEP(Vice-President SME Europe) listed concrete objectives for SME policy on the matter of Tourism: Better tools to promote digitalization, better regulation and less bureaucracy and more fairness and transparency when doing business on online platforms –  where goals mentioned and further remarked by Helmut Hirner(President, Austrian Travel Agency Association) and Klaus Knoepfle(Vice-Chair Industry Affairs Group, European Regions Airline Association).

Well matched, Agriculture & Nutrition as well as Health lastly each found the interest of the audience with three speakers highlighting diverse viewpoints. Paulo Gouveia (Chief Policy Advisor, European Farmers) put his focus on farmers, advising their absolute importance and therefore voiced the wish for policy that allows to target the differences that can be noticed between the 28 member states. Peter Loosen(Board Chair of Food Supplements Europe) added on that the lack of focus on SMEs is not only an issue in the nutrition sector and that a new legislation with a focus on SMEs is vital. With a rhetorical but ever so powerful question to the audience, Sandra Paci(Director Market Access & Patient Advocacy, Argenx) called for innovation, needed on a European, a member state and a SME level.

Evidence based policy making is the wish Anthea McIntyre MEPconcluded the sector of Agriculture & Nutrition and Health with, before Joergen Warborn MEPtook the stage, to conclude the successful event and wonderful topic points mentioned. With his closing statement for the Working Dinner on the topic of “A Brief Overview of the European SME Policy: Accomplishments & Goals still Pending” it was once again made clear that SME friendly policy is vital and crucial for not only one but so many topics of interest that SME Europe brought together this evening.