Wednesday, September 13th, 2023

ESBA Responds to Commission President Ursula von der Leyen’s State of the Union Address, and the SME Relief Package

Brussels, 13 September 2023 — The European Small Business Alliance (ESBA) welcomes the pledge by Commission President Ursula von der Leyen to appoint an EU SME Envoy by the end of the year. This is a promise that is long overdue and it is to be hoped that having a direct line of communication with the Commission President will finally place small and micro-businesses at the forefront of its agenda, marking a significant shift towards economic policies that are more inclusive of the backbone of the European economy.

Labour & skills shortages – diagnosis but no cure

“Commission President, von Der Layen, was correct in diagnosing the problem of labour and skills shortages, which is stopping many small businessefrom growing, but she failed to offer meaningful solutions. We need a Digital Skills passport for ICT-professionals to foster higher mobility throughEU-wide recognition, and we need a European Academy for Entrepreneurs to provide online support and access to training across Europe,” said Andrew Cave, ESBA Secretary General.

Assistance for AI Startups

“We warmly welcome plans to create an EU funding stream for emerging technologies like microelectronics, quantum computing, AI, biotech, and clean tech. Almost more significant is the announcement to allow AI startups to access Europe’s high-performance computers, positioning them to train their models responsibly. Europe’s future economy will be built by today’s start-ups, so measures like these are vitally important.”

Regulation on Late Payments (announced as part of the SME Relief Package, 12 Sept)

ESBA welcomes the Commission’s plans to get tough on late payers. “Only 30% of small businesses suffering from late payment take advantage of thecompensation due to them for fear of repe rcussions, but a 30-day limit, removing legal gaps, automating payments, and ushering in a stricterenforcement regime will go a long way to putting the system back on the side of small business.” Added Cave.

Head Office Tax System for SMEs (announced as part of the SME Relief Package, 12 Sept)

The Commission’s proposal for a Head Office Tax System for SMEs shows promise in reducing bureaucratic friction. “This initiative has the potential to be a game-changer for small businesses operating across multiple EU Member States. The streamlined tax compliance system will drastically cut administrative costs and limit the risks associated with double taxation. It’s a win-win for small businesses and the future prosperity of the SingleMarket,” said Cave.

Beyond Rhetoric: A Call for Concrete Actions

While the Commission’s statements are a step in the right direction, ESBA cautions that eloquent speeches and policy declarations alone won’t drive real-world economic growth. In the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, the SME sector continues to navigate challenges that demand immediate and tangible solutions.

We urge the European Commission to continue converting its constructive dialogue into actionable steps. “In the world beyond the Strasbourg debating chamber, small businesses require not just warm words but decisive actions to revive, thrive, and contribute effectively to the European economy.”

State of the Union

SME Relief Package


For additional details or press inquiries, please contact:

Andrew Cave – Secretary General, ESBA

[email protected]

Tel: 0032 470 80 85 17