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Cities and regions call for stable SME support programme beyond 2020  
​To ensure predictable and stable support for SMEs in the new programming period (2021-2027), the members of the European Committee of the Regions (CoR) gave their input on a renewed and strengthened successor programme to COSME. The local and regional representatives adopted the opinion drawn up by Robert Negoiţă during the plenary session on 31 January in Brussels.

The COSME programme runs from 2014 to 2020 and is the European Commission's main instrument supporting Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs). It has a budget of EUR 2.3 billion supporting better access to finance and markets for SMEs, creating a competitiveness-friendly environment and encouraging entrepreneurial culture. Strengthening regional and local business environments must be the goal of any successor programme after 2020, said Robert Negoiţă (RO/PES), Mayor of District 3 of Bucharest Municipality and rapporteur of the CoR opinion adopted on " The Future of COSME beyond 2020 ".

" SMEs are the main engines for creating growth and jobs in Europe. They are the backbone of the regional economies, creating stable local employment. A renewed and strengthened COSME needs to promote entrepreneurship across sectors and in all different types of territories, including less developed and peripheral regions as well as suburban areas. It also needs to link more advanced regions with those that are still catching up. This will help to address problems that are of particular concern to regions and will improve the EU's SME policy ", explained Robert Negoiţă.

The rapporteur noted that wide-ranging support would be especially important in the area of access to finance, constituting the most significant part of the current COSME budget (61%). " It should not matter if a company is a traditional SME, a micro-enterprise, or a high-growth start-up or scale-up. Nor should it matter in which business sector or territory the company is active. We need to support our SMEs at all stages of their development, from basic training in business skills to loan guarantees and support in acquiring risk capital ", said Mr Negoiţă.

In view of the current post-crisis context, in which job creation is still lagging behind the general recovery of the economy, the rapporteur suggested focusing in particular on the future creation of jobs in SMEs and micro-enterprises. He therefore reiterated the CoR's call for a European "Take One" scheme encouraging the hiring of a first employee, a scheme which could be supported by funding under the new COSME programme.

He further suggested increasing the threshold above which an SME has to verify whether it is ineligible for financing under Horizon 2020 from EUR 150 000 to EUR 500 000, and making the current loan maturity of 1-10 years more flexible. He also highlighted that synergies and transparency between different EU instruments supporting SMEs needed to be improved in the next programming period, offering single contact points providing information and access to all relevant instruments.

The opinion also commends the Enterprise Europe Network (EEN) initiative, which is co-funded under the COSME programme and provides advice to European SMEs that want to develop, innovate and expand across national and EU borders. The rapporteur strongly supports continuing, extending and upgrading the EEN under any successor programme and complementing it with a network of regional and local scale-up promoters, which could form the basis for inter-regional scale-up partnerships offering matchmaking services and fostering inter-regional cooperation and cross-border investments.

" The EEN initiative has proven to be a great success to a big part because of its close collaboration with local and regional authorities and other local stakeholders. The next step is to extend its coverage and visibility to all countries and especially to rural and remote regions and areas with lower population density ", said Mr Negoiţă.


Carmen Schmidle

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