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"Let's make SMEs life easier"  
Smart regulation for small and medium-sizes enterprises (SMEs) is the goal of a draft opinion adopted at the commission meeting for economic policy (ECON) of the European Committee of the Regions (CoR). What SMEs need most are simple, clear and consistent rules argues rapporteur Christian Buchmann (AT/EPP).
SMEs are the backbone of Europe's economy, creating two out of three jobs and generating more than half of Europe's economic production. An SME-friendly regulatory environment is an essential precondition for establishing and developing businesses and thus also for generating innovation, economic growth and jobs.
"High administrative burdens, incoherent requirements and overlapping or contradictory rules - often referred to as red tape - cost SMEs much more in relation to larger companies. Also compliance in taxation, reporting and information obligations, environmental protection or other fields affect SMEs disproportionally. A problem that becomes even more acute in a globalised world. Smart regulation on the other hand doesn't necessarily mean less regulation but rather clearer and simpler rules making life easier for SMEs", explains Christian Buchmann (AT/EPP), Chair of the ECON Commission and Minister for Economy of the Region of Styria.
In his draft opinion Buchmann urges to "Think Small First" across EU policies and in the entire decision-making process, which means considering the impact on smallest enterprises when drafting legislation. Specific priority and action should be given to the access of SMEs to public procurement, and in VAT and taxation rules, the Single Market, finance and support from European Structural and Investment Funds. A better balance should also be considered between SME needs and labour, consumer and environmental protection.
"We can find good practices in cities and regions all over Europe. Paris for example has significantly increased SME access to public markets and reduces payment delays, the 'Iniciativa Lisboa' allows companies to register in 36 minutes, Flanders managed to create innovation friendly rules that leave room for experimentation, the Scottish Regulatory Review Group provides SME friendly alternatives to statutory regulation. Inspirations and experience from these and other examples can serve as the foundation for better results through new and innovative approaches and need to find their way into the European system", says Christian Buchmann.
The members of the ECON commission therefore highlight the need to represent local and regional authorities in European Union efforts like the Small Business Act (SBA) programmes, the Inter-institutional Agreement on Better Law-Making (IIA), the boards of the European Commission's Impact Assessments (IAs) and the Regulatory Fitness and Performance Programme (REFIT) Platform.
The members of the CoR will vote on the final opinion during their plenary session on 11-12 May 2017.
The concept of smart regulation means delivering EU policies and laws that bring the greatest possible benefits to businesses, citizens and public bodies in the most effective way. It is a way of working to ensure that political decisions are prepared in an open, transparent manner, informed by the best available evidence and backed by the comprehensive involvement of stakeholders. Instruments include impact assessment, simplification, reduction of administrative burden and the full and correct implementation of existing legislation.
Carmen Schmidle
Tel. +32 (0)2 282 2366
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