Memorandum submitted by the European Commission
1. POLICIES AND
SMEs' needs and concerns are incorporated into
most EU policies and programmes. Nonetheless, the Enterprise Directorate-General
undertakes specific initiatives in favour of access to finance
and the development of skills, which were identified by the call
for evidence as particularly important. Summary descriptions of
these initiatives, including the key findings as far as available,
are provided below.
1.1 The Multiannual Programme for Enterprises
and Entrepreneurship (MAP)
brings together stakeholders to discuss shared problems and to
exchange good practice in a number of areas including education
and training and access to finance:
1.1.1 The Commission ran a benchmarking project
on entrepreneurship education and training, which helped experts
from the Member States' and Norway to share and learn from each
other's experience regarding the promotion of entrepreneurship
teaching in the education systems. The project found considerable
commitment at national level to promote entrepreneurship teaching,
but noted that such programmes are not generally available to
students. The Commission, in co-operation with experts from the
Members States and the Candidate Countries, is now concentrating
on elaborating methodological tools. In addition a project for
management capacity building aims to identify and disseminate
good practice in this area.
"Creating an entrepreneurial Europe"pages
1.1.2 In the area of access to finance, the
Commission benchmarked business angel policies within the EU.
The project's conclusions emphasised the increasing role of business
angels in start-up and early-stage equity finance, and recommended
improving financing conditions, considering public support for
building a business angel market place and assessing the effects
of taxation. It also identified a need to raise awareness in several
Member States and Candidate Countries regarding the benefits of
business angel finance. The Commission furthermore facilitates
dialogue among stakeholders through discussions on finance in
the Candidate Countries, micro-credits and a Code of Conduct for
banks and SMEs.
The Financial Instruments aim to improve the financial
environment for businesses, especially SMEs by bridging the gaps
that financial markets would otherwise leave open. Three are implemented
via the intermediary of the European Investment Fund (EIF); the
SME guarantee facility provides guarantees to financial institutions
to cover credits to SMEs; the ETF Start-up Facility supports business
creation and financing by investing in specialised Venture Capital
Fund and Business Incubators; and the Seed Capital Action provides
support for recruiting investment managers with a view to reinforce
the venture capital industry's capacity for investing in seed
capital. In addition the "Joint European Venture" programme
supports the creation of trans-national joint ventures among SMEs
within the EU.
"Creating an entrepreneurial Europe"pages
1.2 The sixth Framework programme for RTDcovers,
inter alia, promoting innovation. It aims to encourage and validate
initiatives to promote the creation and growth of innovative business,
notably through the initiatives "Paxis" and "Gate2Growth",
which concentrate on networking and the exchange of good practice.
The framework programme will also support pilot actions to promote
adapting to change and entrepreneurial innovation, focussing on
firm growth, including entrepreneurship within larger companies.
The increasing importance of innovation through entrepreneurial
initiative and entrepreneurship is also dealt with by the Commission's
recent Communication on Innovation Policy.
"Creating an entrepreneurial Europe"pages
EU ENTERPRISE POLICY
To assess whether the EU policies and programmes,
as described above, are well targeted and implemented effectively,
the Commission not only carries out specific evaluations, but
also applies procedures to assess the impact of EU regulation
and policies on businesses and to consult stakeholders directly.
2.1 Reinforcing the evaluation of commission
activities is a key element of the new management culture promoted
by the current reform of the commission, which established a general
principle of regular evaluation of Commission activities. The
Commission considers that evaluation should support policy development
and continuous improvement of the effectiveness of activities.
Evaluation findings should ultimately contribute to decision-making
on priorities and resource allocation.
New standards and good practice on evaluation which will come
in to force later this year will further enhance the organisation
and transparency of the commission's evaluations.
2.2 The Financial Instruments were assessed
in the yearly report of the Growth and Employment initiative.
Their impact was considered positive: the guarantee instruments
benefited about 100,000 SMEs with a total lending of almost
10 billion, following a total contribution of about
200 million. This means that this instrument has
been able to mobilise SME lending worth 50 times the Community
input. On venture capital investments, the EIF had signed contracts
with 18 funds for a total amount of about
120 million, which raised about
540 million, so far benefiting over 200 SMEs. This
demonstrating the substantial leverage of Community funds.
2.3 The MAP is shortly to be the subject
of an overall external evaluation. The Commission expects to be
able to draw on this evaluation to both improve the current MAP
and to aid in the development of any successor. The Framework
Programmes for RTD are subject to both annual monitoring and a
2.4 As part of its Better Regulation Action
Plan, the Commission has established a new impact assessment procedure.
It aims to improve the quality of the Commission's policy proposals
in terms of their efficiency, effectiveness and coherency. It
identifies the likely positive and negative impacts of proposed
policy actions, with a particular focus on economic (including
business), environmental and social effects. Consulting stakeholders
according to the Commission's new minimum consultation standardsis
an integral part of the impact assessment process for major policy
2.5 SMEs can directly influence European
Community legislation and programmes, in the first place through
their local Euro Info Centre (EIC). The EIC network has 300 contact
points in the EU, regularly feeding back company concerns to the
Commission, notably through the Interactive Policy Making Initiative,
with a view to prevent recurring obstacles to business and to
involve businesses in European policy making at an early stage.
It also contributes to make EU policy more transparent, comprehensive
3. CO -ORDINATING
WITH MEMBER STATES
AND AT EU-LEVEL
3.1 In order to help Member States developing
their policies, the Council introduced the "Open method of
co-ordination" in 2000.
This involves defining policy guidelines, performance indicators
and examples of best practice that can be adapted to national
and regional conditions. Within the field of enterprise policy
this has led to the Best Procedure, where Commission and Member
States' experts jointly identify benchmarks and examples of best
practice in selected areas.
3.2 In 2000 the Council endorsed the Charter
for Small Enterprises,
which calls upon Member States and the Commission to support small
enterprises to take full advantage of the knowledge-based economy.
The Commission publishes annual implementation reports, which
provide an overview of progress made by both the Member States
and the Commission towards achieving the Charter's objectives.
3.3 To co-ordinate SME policy within the
Commission, the SME Envoy is designated to listen to SMEs and
their representatives and to raise SME concerns with the different
Commission services. To this end, the SME Envoy monitors SME-related
issues, assesses SME needs in EU programmes and polices and facilitates
interaction between SME organisations and the Commission. The
SME Envoy has acquired visibility in the business community, via
numerous contacts with European and national business organisations.
For 2003, the SME Envoy intends to enhance contacts with the business
community, in particular in the candidate countries.
1 Council Decision (2000/819/EC) of 20 December 2000
on a Multiannual Programme for Enterprise and Entrepreneurship,
and in particular for SMEs (2001-05) OJ L 333/84, 29.12.2000. Back
Decision No 1513/2002/EC concerning the sixth framework programme
of the EC for research, technological development and demonstrating
activities, contributing to the creation of the European research
area and to innovation (2002-06). Back
"Innovation policy: updating the Union's approach in the
context of the Lisbon strategy", 11.03.2003, COM (2003) 112
"Strengthening evaluation of Commission activities",
SEC (2000) 1051. Back
Action plan "Simplifying and improving the regulatory environment",
COM (2002) 278 final, and "Impact Assessment", COM (2002)
276 final, 05.06.2002. Back
"Towards a reinforced culture of consultation and dialogue-General
principles and minimum standards for consultation of interested
parties by the Commission", COM (2002) 704 final 11.12.2002. Back
Presidency Conclusions, Lisbon European Council, 23-24 March 2000. Back
Endorsed by EU leaders at the Feira European Council, 19-20 June