Consulting and Listening to SMEs
The policy-making process in the European Union sees legislative proposals from the Commission debated both by Members of the European Parliament and by representatives of Member States' governments within the European Council. And in general, the Commission consults with interested parties both formally and informally before it draws up its proposals, such as the Small Business Act for Europe. So there are opportunities for those affected (or potentially affected) by policy to make their views known at several stages in the process.
For SMEs - often the largest group of enterprises to be affected by new policy - there are clear difficulties in putting their views across to policy-makers. SMEs do not usually have the resources which large firms dedicate to influencing policy-making or lobbying. For this reason, the Commission has appointed an SME Envoy and encourages an effective and wide-ranging consultation of SMEs as one element of its Think Small First principle.
The Commission is also encouraging Member States and regions to adopt similar measures, ensuring greater representation of SME interests at all levels of policy-making. To this end, it has sought to identify and share examples of effective SME consultation and involvement in policy-making.
Listening to SMEs
The opinions of SMEs are important when developing new EU legislation or programmes that have a direct impact on their operations. This is why the Commission, through the Enterprise Europe Network, operates two mechanisms to test the impact of EU legislation and programmes.
1. In advance via SME panels:
SME Panels are organised to consult SMEs about forthcoming EU legislation and policies. The Enterprise Europe Network partners will select suitable SME participants, run the SME panels and provide the Commission with the results. The result will be used when preparing new legislative or policy proposals. SME panels will be operated in liaison with the SME Envoy to ensure that the needs of SMEs are continuously taken into account in EU lawmaking.
2. Retrospectively via the SME feedback mechanism:
The SME feedback mechanism allows the Enterprise Europe Network partners to collect the views and feedback from SMEs on a broad range of EU policy initiatives, actions, legislation or programmes related to the internal market.
Typical policy areas where feedback will be requested include the environment, sustainability, employment and social affairs, innovation support, taxation and customs and, in more general terms, better regulation and simplification.
Please visit the Enterprise Europe Network website, get in contact with your local partner, and give your opinion on existing and upcoming legislation and programmes.
Please also visit our pages on SME Envoys.