Open letter to Thierry Breton on mitigating the harmful economic effects of the COVID-19 outbreak on SMEs, young entrepreneurs and their access to European programmes

By SME Europe
Hearing of Thierry BRETON, Commissioner-designate, Internal Market – Opening statement

Distinguished Commissioner Breton

We find ourselves in the middle of an unprecedented global crisis. Now, more than ever, European innovation, entrepreneurship and productivity are key for overcoming the negative socio-economic effects of this full-fledged public health emergency. Through this letter we want to inquire about Commission efforts on the Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs programme, considering that European youth has much to offer when it comes to innovative solutions and excellent business ideas to combat the most complex challenges. 

Mitigating the harmful economic effects of the COVID-19 outbreak on SMEs and on young entrepreneurs and their access to European programmes is key. We consider it pertinent to continue fostering cross-border cooperation and exchanges of expertise between Member States. We thus seek a response from you on the way forward for Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs, as concerns:

How will the allocation of exchange opportunities be dealt with, in terms of a fair redistribution of those slots which had to be cancelled due to the outbreak?

The financing of the programme is largely done through Commission resources: is there a guarantee for those applicants which lost their slots this year that their new exchange opportunities will see the same funding and budgetary allocations postponed for the next available period, even if this will be under a different financial year?

Certainly, we salute the Commission’s commitment to European youth and entrepreneurship, to SMEs and local businesses which are indeed a true engine of growth supporting the European economy. Programmes such as COSME, Horizon 2020 and surely Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs are providing pertinent opportunities for exchanging know-how, sharing best practices, incentivising research and innovation, while representing a key source of finance for entrepreneurs, which otherwise would have few resources for starting up their businesses. What is most important for us, is to give youth the chance to learn and practice entrepreneurial education, empowering the brilliant minds of Europe to grow prosperously and thrive in an interconnected economic environment of the EU. 

In these uncertain times, we urge you to take all necessary measures to support European SMEs and young entrepreneurs, as their enhanced skills will be vital in the consolidation of our economies in the aftermath of the crisis. As the EU is going through an emergency where its credibility and effectiveness are questioned by European citizens, it is more important to reassure, at the most local level, that the Union is there for its citizens and that those most affected are best looked after.