The European Commission is determined to strengthen ties between the EU and its Mediterranean neighbours, which together form the Union for the Mediterranean (UfM). As part of this effort, the Commission hosted a meeting in June to review objectives that will benefit the UfM and, importantly, improve the environment for SMEs both inside and outside the EU.
Union for the Mediterranean (UfM), a partnership between Europe and third countries in the Mediterranean (MED) region, is promoting shared prosperity by fostering industrial cooperation among EU Member States and their MED neighbours.
A crucial element of this collaboration is small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), which play a vital role in economic development and job creation in both the EU and MED region. SME development was therefore a key component of a June 2013 meeting in Brussels, which was organised by the European Commission and focused on Euro-Mediterranean industrial cooperation.
Daniel Calleja, Director General of DG Enterprise and Industry and the EU’s SME Envoy, presented the four objectives of the 2013-2014 Work Programme:
Environment for SMEs improved
In spite of the global economic crisis and political changes throughout the Mediterranean region, all MED countries have improved the environment for SMEs. Progress has been particularly strong for access to finance and services for companies.
However, advancements have been mainly incremental, and additional regulatory reforms are necessary in a region that suffers from massive youth unemployment, low participation of women in the labour force, low integration in global value chains and a lack of economic diversification. The EU is eager to share recipes for tackling such challenges. As a sign of the EU’s commitment, a four-year regional programme will support private sector development in MED countries from 2014 onwards. The programme, which has a budget of €12 million, comprises of a few main components:
ACAA-type market access agreements, which abolish barriers to trade, are currently at different stages of preparation and negotiation in MED countries. The primary sectors concerned are machinery, electrical products, construction products, pressure equipment, toys, medical appliances, gas appliances and pharmaceuticals.
‘The EU needs to give a clear signal that strong industrial cooperation is of mutual benefit for Mediterranean neighbours and the EU. Further economic development and job creation will also support political stability in the region. Our dialogue must continue to spur leadership, creativity and sharing. A stronger economic partnership will have a tangible impact on all sides of the Mediterranean Sea.’ – Daniel Calleja, Director General of DG Enterprise and Industry and the EU’s SME Envoy
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