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New initiatives to help SMEs

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In the second half of 2013, the European Commission launched a series of initiatives to help small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) perform better. Here is a snapshot of some of the EC’s ambitious new measures.

Consultation on Green Action Plan for small enterprises

Through a public consultation, the European Commission is collecting stakeholders’ views on the most effective support measures to help SMEs become more resource-efficient, and to help them sell green products internationally. The Commission also wants to determine which actors are best-placed to help SMEs reach these goals. The results of this public consultation will be used to shape actions aimed at promoting resource efficiency for and by SMEs; these actions will be included in the forthcoming Green Action Plan for SMEs to be presented in the spring of 2014.

Today, only a few European SMEs extend their green business to foreign markets. Knowing that the EU makes up roughly one-third of the world market for environmental industries, this reveals a huge potential for SMEs to grow.DG Enterprise & Industry Director General and EU SME Envoy Daniel Calleja

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Access to Finance Days – helping to shape an SME-friendly financing market

SMEs must contend with the lowest credit availability for businesses since the beginning of the credit crunch more than five years ago. Therefore, as part of the new Competitiveness of Enterprises and SMEs programme (COSME), the EC is taking action to rapidly bridge the market gap by providing €3.5 billion of annual funding for SMEs from 2014 to 2020. For COSME to be successful, it is vital to create an effective partnership with the financial organisations that provide SMEs with access to credit. Therefore, EC Vice-President Antonio Tajani launched a series of events – the ‘EU Access to Finance Days’ – to explain how COSME's new financial instruments will work and to encourage reputable financial market operators to become COSME intermediaries. Access to Finance Days will be organised in all EU capitals by the end of 2014.

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Standard VAT return: Easing life for 20 million businesses

A new standard VAT (value added tax) return, which can cut costs for EU businesses by up to €15 billion a year, has been proposed by the Commission. The aim of this initiative is to slash red tape, ease tax compliance and make tax administrations across the Union more efficient. Every year, 150 million VAT returns are submitted by EU taxpayers to national tax administrations. Currently, the information requested, the format of national forms and the reporting deadlines vary considerably from one Member State to the next. This makes VAT returns for cross-border businesses a complex, costly procedure.

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Making crowdfunding a sustainable source of finance

The European Commission has launched a public consultation designed to unleash the potential of ‘crowdfunding’, a new form of financing that calls on individuals to invest in projects and initiatives, generally via the Internet. To make crowdfunding a sustainable source of financing for new European projects, certain safeguards are needed, particularly to ensure people's trust. The objective of the EC consultation is to gather data about the needs of market participants and to identify areas in which soft-law measures or legislative actions could encourage investment and facilitative the growth of crowdfunding.

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Top tech entrepreneurs present manifesto for startup success

Some of Europe's top tech entrepreneurs and startup pioneers presented a manifesto detailing why Europe needs to adapt for the digital age. The Startup Europe Manifesto draws on the combined experience of dozens of Europeans who have imagined, built and grown successful businesses. It contains 22 recommendations to the European Commission, EU Member States and EU companies in the fields of education and skills, access to capital, data protection and thought leadership.

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