European progress microfinance facility eases access to credit for small-business start-ups and development.
New firms need money to get up-and-running. But budding entrepreneurs can face problems getting a bank loan, either because they lack assets, are unemployed, or have a poor credit history.
The European progress microfinance facility makes it easier for small business owners to get the funding they need to start or grow. About 99% of start-ups in Europe count as micro or small businesses and a third of these are launched by people who are otherwise unemployed.
The EU programme does not finance start-ups directly. Instead, it helps microfinance lenders to provide small loans of less than €25 000 - to start-ups or to businesses with fewer than 10 employees.
To access loans backed by the programme, entrepreneurs and small business owners must contact a participating microfinance lender or intermediary in their country.
So far, intermediaries in the Netherlands, Belgium and Bulgaria have all signed agreements with the European Investment Fund, which manages the programme for the Commission and the European Investment Bank.
Qredits, the Netherlands-based intermediary, is a not-for-profit foundation. Its focuses on business potential, rather than entrepreneurs' background or past difficulties. Benefit claimants can apply for a loan provided they have a viable business plan.
Belgium's newly created microStart helps entrepreneurs in the Brussels area, while Bulgaria's Mikrofond targets people in rural areas - including Roma communities.
Agreements with microfinance lenders in other EU countries are underway.
The microfinance programme is in line with Europe 2020, the EU's growth and jobs strategy, which aims to raise employment rates to 75% and lift 20m people out of poverty by 2020.