Tuesday, March 10th, 2020

ESBA attends meeting with Executive Vice President Valdis Dombrovskis

On the 6th of March 2020, ahead of the publication of the upcoming Industrial and SME Strategies, the European Small Business Alliance (ESBA) attended an informal discussion organised by the European Commission Executive Vice President Valdis Dombrovskis. The meeting brought together relevant EU social partners and representatives from the business community.

Executive Vice President Dombrovskis outlined the main initiatives falling under the upcoming Industrial Strategy, with a special emphasis on the upcoming Single Market Report and the Enforcement Plan. Executive Vice President Dombrovskis reiterated the European Commission´s commitment to include companies of all sizes, and across the entire value chain, within the Industrial Strategy; and renew the EU´s commitment to reinforce its role in the global market.

In the framework of the SME Strategy, the European Commission focused on: supporting the green and digital transition of SMEs; reducing administrative and regulatory complexities for SMEs; addressing the issue of skills shortage and access to finance; and the revision of the Late Payment Directive.

The business community generally welcomed the objectives of both strategies and acknowledged the importance of framing the Industrial Strategy with companies of all sizes in mind. However, the stakeholders underlined the need take concrete actions supporting entrepreneurs and small businesses. The EU’s transition to a sustainable and digital economy will pose significant challenges to SMEs. Business partners thus asked to ensure the introduction of practical measures and appropriate financing to support the creation of sustainable businesses. This would enable the twin transition of already established SMEs, supporting them in acquiring necessary digital skills. Furthermore, participants repeatedly raised the need to lower the existing administrative and regulatory burdens for SMEs. At policy-making level, the stakeholders stressed the importance of impact assessment and enforcement of adopted measures, and put forward ideas such as introducing a cross-DG task force for SMEs or the presence of an SME representative in the EC’s regulatory scrutiny board.

ESBA welcomed the draft strategy’s focus on access to finance but bemoaned the lack of focus on women entrepreneur’s access to finance. The biggest obstacle to women scaling their business is access to finance, so if we want more jobs created government and financial institutions need to act.

That is why the ESBA Manifesto for Change calls on the EU, and in particular the EIB group, to lead by example and scale up the financial products offered to Women Entrepreneurs and to set up a 50% gender target on investment decisions. ESBA also highlighted the Commission’s focus on reviewing the Late Payment directive with a zero tolerance approach; and called for the Commission to go further in setting up stricter rules on late payments, as these have had better outcomes in terms of avoiding bankruptcy.

Finally, ESBA emphasised the urgent need to work hard to frame regulation with SMEs in mind: our experience with the SMOOTH project on GDPR compliance has showed that the complexity of EU legislation creates expensive obstacles for entrepreneurs. Vice President Dombrovskis closed the meeting by recognizing the importance of the enforcement, implementation of the SME test, Impact Assessment; and promised to explore the possibilities of introducing the much needed SME voice in the Regulatory Scrutiny Board in particular.