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SMEs in the EU

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

Test to help SMEs verify status
A new web-based test to help European companies find out if they correspond to the EU definition of small and medium sized enterprise (SME) is now available online. Developed by the Walloon regional authorities, the tool aims to serve the European Commission in negotiating contracts under the Seventh Framework help to National Contact Points (NCPs) in helping SMEs find out if they are eligible for participation in an FP7 scheme, or for higher funding rates.

Sanctions against employers of illegally staying third-country nationals
The European Commission on 16 May 2007 presented a proposal for an EU Directive to tackle the pull factor for illegal immigrants created by employers providing illegal work. The Directive on sanctions against such employers is part of a comprehensive European Migration policy which supports legal migration, fights illegal migration, builds cooperation with Third Countries and works with the development agenda. Two Communications on the external dimension of migration were also published on the same day.

Privacy Enhancing Technologies (PETs)
The use of Privacy Enhancing Technologies (PETs) can help to design information and communication systems and services in a way that minimises the collection and use of personal data and facilitate compliance with data protection rules. The use of PETs should result in making breaches of certain data protection rules more difficult and/or helping to detect them.

Payment Services Directive: Frequently Asked Questions
The aim of the PSD is to ensure that payments within the EU – in particular credit transfer, direct debit and card payments – become as easy, efficient, and secure as domestic payments within a Member State, by providing the legal foundation to make the Single Euro Payments Area (SEPA) possible. The PSD will reinforce the rights and protection of all the users of payment services (consumers, retailers, large and small companies and public authorities).

International customs operation Diabolo
The joint 'Diabolo' customs operation was a maritime operation that focused on containers shipped from Asian ports of loading to EU ports of discharge. The operation focused mainly on counterfeit cigarettes, but the possibility that other counterfeit goods or sensitive goods could be retained or seized by the EU Member States was also incorporated.

Unsafe products in the EU - overview
If a product on the European market causes a serious risk to the health and safety of consumers, action can be taken at three different levels to eliminate the risk.

Safety Gate: the rapid alert system for dangerous non-food products
The Safety Gate rapid alert system enables quick exchange of information between EU/EEA member states, the UK and the European Commission about dangerous non-food products posing a risk to health and safety of consumers.

Driving time and rest periods - Regulation (EC) 561/2006
Regulation (EC) No 561/2006 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 15 March 2006 on the harmonisation of certain social legislation relating to road transport and amending Council Regulations (EEC) No 3821/85 and (EC) No 2135/98 and repealing Council Regulation (EEC) No 3820/85 (Text with EEA relevance) - Declaration

.eu one year on - questions & answers
This April 2007, Europe's internet domain .eu celebrates its first year of being open to the public. Over 2.5 million domain names have been registered. This enormous number of active users makes .eu Europe's third most popular top level domain (TLD) and the seventh most popular worldwide. With a 17% increase of registrations over the past five months, .eu is also one of the fastest growing TLD names on the web. According to a recent Europe-wide study, use of the .eu has proved particularly effective for small businesses.

New EU rules tell truck drivers to work less, take more breaks
New EU-wide regulations have come into force restricting the working week for lorry and coach drivers and requiring longer rest stops.

Europe's .eu a soaring success in cyberspace
The .eu online domain name is enjoying a runaway success in cyberspace with over 2.5 million registered users during its first year.

Britain's Prince Charles slams 'crazy' EU laws on seeds
Prince Charles describes as "crazy" EU legislation which prevents the sale of seeds from old vegetable varieties.

Eurozone services sector slows slightly in March: survey
Growth in the eurozone 's service sector lost more steam in March but nonetheless remained at a high level.

Eurozone retail sales rise in February after German VAT hike
Retailers in the 13 countries sharing the euro saw their sales rise in February as German spending bounced back from a value added tax hike the previous month, official EU data showed Wednesday.

EU funding rules information pack
Overview of new financial rules and funding opportunities 2007-2013

EU financial rules 2007-2013
Overview of new financial rules and funding opportunities 2007-2013.

EU cuts red tape for awarding EU funds
New implementing rules for EU funds will simplify access to EU funding and cut associated administrative burdens, particularly for SMEs.

EU cuts red tape for awarding EU funds
New implementing rules for EU funds will simplify access to EU funding and cut associated administrative burdens, particularly for SMEs.

EU Transparency Initiative
The purpose of this corner is to give a small overview on the Transparency Initiative – an idea, which among other goals aims to increase openness and accessibility of EU institutions, raise awareness over the use of the EU budget and make the Union's institutions more accountable to the public. The site will be constantly updated as the debate progresses, providing you with fresh information on the outcomes of the debates and future plans.

EU excise duties on commercial diesel – Frequently Asked Questions
The new proposal is based on the fact that existing tax differentials on diesel used by trucks ("commercial gas oil") create distortions of competition within the liberalised Internal Market of the haulage sector. In addition, they lead to "fuel tourism", where truck drivers alter their routes in order to benefit from low tax rates applied in certain Member States, thereby having a negative impact on the environment. In consequence, the Commission’s proposal aims at narrowing these differentials while reducing environmental damages.

Questions and answers on EU Consumer Policy strategy 2007-2013
Commissioner Meglena Kuneva on 13 March set out more than 20 legislative and non legislative initiatives to boost the retail side of the European Union's Single Market by 2013. The Commission says this will move forwards in the coming months with: a comprehensive overhaul of cross border shopping rights, an in-depth assessment of how best to strengthen consumer collective redress; new proposals to strengthen the Timeshare Directive; and a pledge to open the market for better cross border deals for credit (Consumer Credit Directive). The new Consumer Strategy 2007-2013 aims to boost confidence in the Single Market so that consumers can shop freely across borders - travelling or online – to get the best price, the best quality and for the product best suited to their needs.

2007 report on equality between women and men
2006 saw two major events with a bearing on gender equality in the EU: the adoption by the Commission of the Roadmap for equality between women and men for the period 2006-2010, and the adoption by the European Council of the Pact for Gender Equality. These two key initiatives testify to the EU's continued commitment to achieving genuine equality between women and men.

Effects on the European Economy of Shortages of Foreign Language Skills in Enterprise
This study was commissioned by the Directorate General for Education and Culture of the European Commission in December 2005 and undertaken by the UK National Centre for Languages, in collaboration with an international team of researchers. Its objective was to provide the Commission and decision-takers in Member States with practical information and analysis of the use of language skills by SMEs and the impact on business performance.

European Commission action against cartels – Questions and answers
The European Commission defines a cartel as being an illegal secret agreement concluded between competitors to fix prices, restrict supply and/or divide up markets.

Internal Market Scoreboard
The Internal Market Scoreboard examines how quickly and how well each of the EU Member States writes Single Market directives into national law. It also highlights the number of infringements proceedings that are underway against Member States.