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Frequently asked questions and answers

What are SMEs?

SMEs small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), of which there are over 20 million in the EU, representing 99% of businesses. SMEs are defined as economically independent companies with less than 250 employees and less than € 50 million annual turnover (or 43 million annual balance sheet).

Read more about the definition of SMEs

More SME statistics

Why do you focus so much on SMEs? Why are they so important?

SMEs are responsible for the majority of new jobs created in Europe and contribute to growth and prosperity. Moreover, their capacity for innovation and flexibility in a changing business environment makes them crucial for Europe's success in the global economy.

More information about SMEs role in the economy can be found here.

Why do we need action at EU level?

SMEs around Europe face the same type of problems: administrative burden, difficulty to find financing and skilled labour, or to take opportunity of the Single Market. Addressing some of these problems together through a partnership between the EU and the Member States can bring considerable and tangible results.

Read more about EU policy for SMEs here.

Is the Small Business Act for Europe (SBA) a real act, does it have legislative power?

The SBA uses all means of political and administrative action to put SMEs’ needs in the forefront of the European policy. But it is not a real act, as there is no such legal instrument within the European Union. The SBA consists of many different elements: 10 common principles for the Member States and the Commission, 4 legislative proposals including directives such as the late payment directive and a new European Company Statute, and policy actions such as the establishment of EU Centres in China and India or mobility programmes for nascent entrepreneurs or apprentices.

Read more about the SBA.

What are you doing in order to prevent the Small Business Act for Europe (SBA) from becoming a paper tiger?

The SBA is an ambitious initiative of the Commission and needs the full support of national governments, business organisations and all other stakeholders. The European Council adopted the SBA in December 2008, at the highest political level. The European Parliament also approved it in March 2009. It is integrated into the Lisbon Partnership for Growth and Jobs. Progress will be monitored regularly.

Read more about the implementation of the SBA here.

Are there special rules for micro-companies, with less than 10 employees?

All new legislative and administrative proposals at European and national level should be subjected to an "SME test". Whenever this impact is considered negative, the governments or institutions should consider derogations, transition periods and exemptions for SMEs in particular from information and reporting requirements. This would of course apply first and foremost to the small companies because they are suffering most from all kinds of red tape.

Read more about the SBA here.

Read more about EU policy for crafts and small businesses here.

Where have the ideas for the Small Business Act for Europe (SBA) come from?

The European Commission has consulted widely with its stakeholders through a public hearing and an intensive on-line consultation with more than 500 replies. In addition, the European Commission has appointed an SME Envoy to open up channels of communication between the Commission and SMEs, and their representative organisations. Also, the Enterprise Experience programme, where European Commission officials spend one week in an SME as trainees, helps staff to understand better the needs of SMEs and thus be able to address them more effectively.

Read more about consulting SMEs here.

Read more about the SBA consultation process here.

Read more about the Enterprise Experience programme here pdf - 812 KB [812 KB] Deutsch (de) français (fr) .

Who can help me to find a business partner?

The Enterprise Europe Network is the gateway to competitiveness and innovation for European small businesses. Network partners can help businesses find business partners. They also assist them by raising awareness and by providing access to information needed to develop a business. Promoting transnational technology cooperation and ensuring access to innovative technologies is another priority of the Enterprise Europe Network.

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