Since he took office in 2010, European Commission Vice-President Antonio Tajani has made it a priority to reignite Europe’s entrepreneurial spirit to lead the EU out of crisis. In addition to facilitating financial support and promoting digital innovation, EU initiatives have been successfully educating and encouraging women and young people to realise new business opportunities.
Entrepreneurship is not merely a driving force for job creation. It also contributes to personal fulfilment and the achievement of social objectives.
However, for a variety of reasons – a lack of entrepreneurial culture, a stigma attached to failure and so on – the EU is not exploiting its full entrepreneurial potential.
The European Commission has therefore been taking actions to awaken Europe’s entrepreneurial spirit: educating young people about entrepreneurship, highlighting opportunities for women, easing administrative requirements and making it easier to attract investors.
Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs, a cross-border exchange programme that matches budding entrepreneurs with entrepreneurs running small businesses in other participating countries, has enabled roughly 2 000 young Europeans to get a taste of the business world. The programme's specific objectives are to promote on-the-job-training; exchange experience and information between partners; and enhance both market access and cross-border networking.
Given young people’s integral role in the EU’s entrepreneurial future, the Commission has also been strengthening training for high-school and university-level teachers in entrepreneurship education by organising and co-financing conferences, seminars and workshops. In 2013, an entrepreneurship guide book, Entrepreneurship Education – A Guide for Educators, was created for secondary-school teacher training.
The European Network of Female Entrepreneurship Ambassadors, which has 300 entrepreneurs from 22 countries, has inspired women of all ages to establish their own businesses. More than 250 new enterprises have been set up with the help of the ambassadors.
In addition, the European Network of Mentors for Women Entrepreneurs, consisting of about 200 entrepreneurs from 17 European countries, offers advice and support to women entrepreneurs on the start-up and growth phases of their enterprises.
In addition to bolstering underrepresented demographics, one of the core principles of European Commission Vice-President Antonio Tajani’s emphasis on entrepreneurship has been the need to re-evaluate bureaucratic procedures for starting and running a business. For the EU as a whole, the average time to start a business has been reduced from nine to five days, while the cost dropped by almost 20 % – from an average of €463 to €372.
Taxes are also on the agenda, with a two-year study on ‘SME Taxation in Europe’ launched to identify disadvantages resulting from corporate income taxation (CIT) of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) compared to larger companies. The study also aims to reveal SME good practices and ways to overcome CIT issues.
Another two-year study is underway to develop an ‘Accounting guide for SMEs’. The guide will outline good practices for SMEs that are not covered by harmonised EU accounting rules, and identify where administrative burdens can be reduced.
A number of initiatives have been launched to raise awareness of European businesses and entrepreneurs that offer new digital products and services.
Currently, only 2 % of enterprises in Europe fully utilise digital opportunities. The ‘e-Skills for Jobs 2014’ campaign, which follows on from European Commission President José Manuel Barroso’s ‘Grand Coalition for Digital Jobs’, aims to educate and encourage more people to embrace digital opportunities.
The Digital Entrepreneurship Monitor (2013-2015) is measuring and evaluating key technological and market trends and business opportunities, and their impact on the European economy. Information and statistics are available on the Digital Entrepreneurship Monitor website. The Watify platform aims to help entrepreneurs to overcome the barriers that prevent them from starting their own business.
Adopted in January 2013, the ‘Entrepreneurship 2020’ Action Plan was devised to help Europeans recognise an entrepreneurial career as a rewarding and appealing option. The plan emphasises three main areas: education and training; improving the business environment, including better access to finance and more successful transfers of business ownership; and promoting entrepreneurship among specific groups, including women, migrants and minorities.
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