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SMEs in the EU

News and information about the European Union's policies for small and medium-sized businesses.

Enterprise Europe Network
The Enterprise Europe Network is an EU gateway to competitiveness and innovation, giving access to information to develop your business and find the right business partners. The Network offers support and advice to businesses across Europe and helps them make the most of the opportunities in the European Union. Its services are specifically designed for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) but are also available to all businesses, research centres and Universities across Europe.

EU support to fight the crisis in the automotive sector
The European automotive sector, with 12 million jobs depending on this strategic industry, has been hit particularly hard by the current economic crisis with new registrations down by 20 per cent and gloomy expectations for 2009. Due to its close links to other sectors and the wide spread of supply industry and vehicle trade, the negative economic effects reaches out to millions of employees in all EU Member States. In today's communication, the European Commission defends a proactive stance to support industry in their efforts to withstand the crisis, soften negative effects and ensure long-term competitiveness. Building on the European Economic Recovery Plan of 2008, it sets various measures to improve access to credit, to clarify the rules for granting state aid in the particular circumstances, to boost the demand for new vehicles through coordinated national action, to minimise social costs and retain the skilled workforce and to defend fair competition in open markets. The Commission suggests a new partnership with industry, trade unions and EU Member States in the context of the CARS 21 process to accompany the common crisis response.

EU sanctions against employers of illegally staying third-country nationals - briefing
Questions and Answers on sanctions against employers of illegally staying third-country nationals

European Enterprise Awards
Policies that promote entrepreneurship and create a favourable environment for business, in particular small and medium-sized enterprises, are crucial if the European Union is to rise to its number one challenge of stimulating economic growth and creating new jobs. The European Commission Vice-President Günter Verheugen launched in November 2005 the European Enterprise Awards, which recognise and reward outstanding initiatives that support entrepreneurship at the regional level.

Services Directive: General improvement, but concerns over impact - EUROCHAMBRES survey
On the occasion of a Czech Presidency conference on the future of services in Prague today, Secretary General Arnaldo Abruzzini presented the findings of the 4th EUROCHAMBRES survey on the implementation of the Services Directive.

On-line tool for SME funding
This tool aims to present the main European funding programmes available to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and contains brief information as well as the main web sites for each programme. Please note that the information included is not exhaustive.

Review of the VAT invoicing rules
The European Commission has adopted a proposal to change the EU VAT Directive 2006/112/EC in respect to the invoicing rules, based on a Communication on the technological developments in the field of electronic invoicing. The aim of the proposal is to increase the use of electronic invoicing, reduce burdens on business, support small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) and help EU Member States to tackle fraud. The proposal simplifies, modernises and harmonises the VAT invoicing rules. In particular, it eliminates the current barriers to e-invoicing in the VAT Directive by treating paper and electronic invoices equally. The proposal is a key element of the Commission's Action Programme to reduce burdens on business by 25% by 2012, and is part of the Commission's strategy to combat VAT fraud more efficiently.

Review of the VAT invoicing rules - briefing
The European Commission adopted a proposal on 28 January to change the VAT Directive 2006/112/EC in respect to the invoicing rules, based on a Communication on the technological developments in the field of electronic invoicing. The aim of the proposal is to increase the use of electronic invoicing, reduce burdens on business, support small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) and help EU Member States to tackle fraud. The proposal simplifies, modernises and harmonises the VAT invoicing rules. In particular, it eliminates the current barriers to e-invoicing in the VAT Directive by treating paper and electronic invoices equally. The proposal is a key element of the Commission's Action Programme to reduce burdens on business by 25% by 2012, and is part of the Commission's strategy to combat VAT fraud more efficiently.

Bordeaux Communiqué - European Vocational Education and Training policy (VET) - briefing
On 25-26 November 2008, in Bordeaux, ministers responsible for vocational education and training (VET) of the EU Member States, the EFTA/EEA and candidate countries, the European Commission and the European Social Partners adopted the Bordeaux Communiqué which reviews the Copenhagen process on enhanced cooperation in VET.

EU Services Directive
The objective of the European Union Services Directive is to achieve a genuine Internal Market in services by removing legal and administrative barriers to the development of service activities between EU Member States.

The flexicurity concept and how it is employed in Europe
Flexicurity is a policy approach that attempts to combine flexibility of labour markets for employers and security of employment for employees. It has the potential to substantially enhance the competitiveness of the European economy and create higher levels of employment.

Simplifying the business environment for companies
In the context of Better Regulation, the European Commission has decided to simplify the regulatory environment for European businesses, in co-operation with the European Parliament and the EU Member States. The objective is to ensure that Community legislation in the fields of company law, accounting and auditing corresponds to today's business needs and allows European businesses to compete more effectively and to be more successful in a highly competitive global environment.

Michael-Ter-Berg
Michael Ter-Berg is a director of EUbusiness.com and formerly Chief Executive of one of the UK's most successful University transfer technology companies, Medic-to-Medic/ Map of Medicine (University College London) and President of a leading Swiss Hotel Management School, DCT.

European Committee for Standardisation
CEN, the European Committee for Standardization, was founded in 1961 by the national standards bodies in the European Economic Community and EFTA countries. Now CEN is contributing to the objectives of the European Union and European Economic Area - with voluntary technical standards which promote free trade, the safety of workers and consumers, interoperability of networks, environmental protection, exploitation of research and development programmes, and public procurement. CEN is a non-profit making technical organization set up under Belgian law.

Industrial Property Rights Strategy for Europe - guide
The European Commission adopted on 16 July two initiatives in the area of copyright. First, the Commission proposes to align the copyright term for performers with that applicable to authors, in this way bridging the income gap that performers face toward the end of their lives. Second, the Commission proposes to fully harmonise the copyright term that applies to co-written musical compositions. In parallel, the Commission also adopted a Green Paper on Copyright in the Knowledge Economy. The consultation document focuses on topics that appear relevant for the development of a modern economy, driven by the rapid dissemination of knowledge and information. Both of these initiatives comprise a unique mix of social, economic and cultural measures aimed at maintaining Europe as a prime location for cultural creators in the entertainment and knowledge sectors.

Regulation automatically approving aid for jobs and growth - guide
The European Commission has adopted a Regulation, which will come into force in the coming weeks, giving automatic approval for a range of state aid measures and so allowing EU Member States to grant such aid without first notifying the Commission. The Regulation authorises aid in favour of SMEs, research, innovation, regional development, training, employment and risk capital. The Regulation also authorises environmental protection aid, aid measures promoting entrepreneurship, such as aid for young innovative businesses, aid for newly created small businesses in assisted regions, and measures tackling problems, like difficulties in access to finance, faced by female entrepreneurs. As well as encouraging Member States to focus their state resources on aid that will be of real benefit to job creation and Europe's competitiveness, the Regulation reduces the administrative burden for public authorities, the beneficiaries and the Commission. This new General Block Exemption Regulation (GBER) consolidates into one text and harmonises the rules previously existing in five separate Regulations, and enlarges the categories of state aid covered by the exemption. It will take effect 20 days after publication in the Official Journal, allowing Member States to grant better targeted aid immediately.

Communication on VAT reduced rates - guide
The European Commission made a proposal on 7 July 2008 to change the VAT Directive 2006/112/EC so as to provide EU Member States with the flexibility to apply reduced VAT rates for some specific services on a permanent basis. The Commission proposal covers areas where there is sufficient evidence that reduced rates do not create problems for the proper functioning of the Internal Market. The sectors concerned are mainly so called labour-intensive services and locally supplied services, including restaurant services. The proposal is also part of the small business act as SMEs dominate the sectors concerned. The proposal does not alter the principle that the application of reduced rates is optional for Member States.

Equal treatment beyond the workplace - guide
The Commission on 2 July 2008 adopted a proposal for a directive which provides for protection from discrimination on grounds of age, disability, sexual orientation and religion or belief beyond the workplace. This new directive would ensure equal treatment in the areas of social protection, including social security and health care, education and access to and supply of goods and services which are commercially available to the public, including housing. Eurobarometer surveys show that a large majority of Europeans support such legislation: 77% back measures to protect people from discrimination in education and 68% in access to goods and services.

"Small Business Act" for Europe
The "Small Business Act" for Europe was adopted by the Commission on 25 June 2008. It is based on ten guiding principles and proposes policy actions to be undertaken by both the Commission and EU Member States.

European Private Company - guide
European Commission proposal for a Regulation on a Statute for a European Private Company - guide

Small Business Act for Europe (SBA) - guide
Most jobs in the EU are provided for by Small and Medium Sized Enterprises (SMEs), companies of 250 employees or less. Despite having a crucial importance for future development, they very often face enormous bureaucratic hurdles and obstacles. To help European SMEs fully unlock their potential of long term sustainable growth and of more job creation, the European Commission unveiled on 25 June 2008 the Small Business Act for Europe (SBA), based on ten guiding principles and proposes policy actions to be undertaken by both the Commission and EU Member States.

Small Business Act - public procurement guidelines
In the context of the Small Business Act (SBA), the European Commission has published a set of practical examples and guidelines which will enable Member States and public authorities to make their public procurement rules and practices more friendly for small and medium enterprises (SMEs). Public procurement in the EU – i.e. the purchases of goods, services and public works by governments and public utilities - is a vast market, worth €1800 billion in 2006 and estimated at about 16% of GDP.

Notice on state aid in the form of Guarantees - guide
The European Commission on 20 May 2008 adopted a new Notice on state aid in the form of guarantees. The text sets out clear and transparent methodologies to calculate the aid element in a guarantee and provides simplified rules for SMEs, including predefined safe-harbour premiums and single premium rates for low-amount guarantees. The new Notice was foreseen in the State Aid Action Plan as part of the Commission's efforts to clarify and simplify the state aid rules.

EU budget 2009: EUROCHAMBRES urges even more resources for 'competitiveness'
Yesterday the European Commission adopted the Preliminary Draft Budget for 2009. EUROCHAMBRES is pleased to see that, this year again, the bulk of the overall budget (44.7%) is devoted to the 'sustainable growth' heading.

Small Business Act for Europe
The European Commission has proposed in the Community Lisbon Programme the preparation of a Small Business Act for Europe whose main aim will be to set principles and concrete measures to improve the framework conditions for European SMEs, while taking full account of their diversity.