Did you know that small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) can easily notify the European Commission if they face problems in relation to EU laws and policies? With the help of the EU's 600 Enterprise Europe Network partners, SMEs can make their situation known. This applies not only during the formation of legislation, but after legislation has been put in place and also on an ongoing basis via the Enterprise Europe Network's standard consultation procedure.
The European Commission constantly seeks feedback from SMEs on the impact that its legislative proposals and initiatives have, in a bid to find ways to cut red tape and help SMEs make the most of opportunities in the EU. SMEs are the backbone of the EU’s economy. A total of 99% of all European businesses are classed as SMEs and they provide two out of three private sector jobs. Given that SMEs are more resilient than large companies in the current crisis and that they create 85% of all new jobs, it is essential for the European Commission to find out how to best help SMEs to be more successful and create more jobs.
Accessible to enterprises everywhere in the EU, the Enterprise Europe Network (the Network) has a big role to play in this process, bringing together business support organisations from more than 50 countries. This gives SMEs the opportunity to get in touch with experts in EU countries and in a number of non-EU countries. With close to 600 member organisations, the Network is always relatively close at hand, wherever businesses are based. 'Whichever Network contact point you get in touch with, we will either assist you on the spot or put you in touch with a specialised branch in your region even better placed to serve you,’ comments a Europe Enterprise Network representative.
The Network has two main ways to test the impact of EU legislation and programmes on SMEs. SMEs can be consulted either before EU legislation is rolled out or after it has been implemented, thereby checking its effects on SMEs. The pre-legislation consultation is carried out via SME business panels organized by Network partners who then provide the Commission with the discussion results.
The SME panels work as follows: Network partners select suitable participants to invite to the discussions, run the panels and provide the Commission with results. These outcomes are considered when the Commission is drafting new legislative or policy proposals.
The post-legislation consultation is done via the ‘SME feedback mechanism’. Enterprise Europe Network partners collect the views and feedback from SMEs on a broad range of EU policies: on the environment, sustainability, employment and social affairs, innovation support, taxation and customs and, in more general terms, better regulation and simplification. The collated issues are then logged in a database accessible to policy makers in the Commission.
Complaints are often aired about the red tape created by European law. However, there is a definite lack of concrete proposals to reduce this burden. With this in mind, the Network supports the current European Commission consultation: ‘Let us know what could be done better – we would like your ideas for reducing red tape!’ This consultation process for SMEs will help to identify the top ten EU legislative acts considered most burdensome by micro companies and SMEs. It will run until 21 December 2012, and once complete, the Commission will analyse the results and consider how situation for SMEs could be improved.
You don't know where to start when looking for international partners? Don't have the resources to apply for EU funding? Have no idea who could finance your business? The Enterprise Europe Network (the Network) is there to help by making sure your company benefits from the EU Single Market as much as the big players do.
Network experts can help you find international business partners, source new technologies and receive EU funding or finance. And they can advise you on issues as diverse as intellectual property, going international or EU law and standards.
In addition to the business panels and feedback tool, the Network helps SMEs engage in public consultations and encourages them to make appropriate referrals to a free EU problem-solving network called SOLVIT. SOLVIT centres across the EU (as well as in Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein) deal with problems that arise from the misapplication of EU law by public authorities. The centres deal with complaints from both citizens and businesses.