At the request of the Bulgarian presidency of the Council of the EU, the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) has drafted an exploratory opinion on small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

“SMEs should be provided with more support and be more actively promoted if they are to be in a better position,” rapporteur Milena Angelova said. “If we want to improve the situation for small and medium-sized enterprises, the Small Business Act (SBA) and its principles should be made legally binding as soon as possible.”

According to the EESC’s 13-page opinion, the European Commission and the Council should include implementation of the SBA as a permanent review exercise in the European Semester and Annual Growth Survey, in close cooperation with the representative SME organisations.

The EESC also suggested an inclusive, coherent and effective horizontal European SME policy which also takes into account the needs of all the different SME sub-groups (from value-generating companies and micro, small, family and traditional companies, to those operating in remote areas, and the self-employed).

“We really need to make an effort to make sure that SMEs can be a lever for our economy,” said co-rapporteur, Panagiotis Gkofas. “There are programmes in Brussels, but they are very different from the reality and opinions expressed in the member states. SMEs in the individual member states are not always aware of the policies relevant to them – the people who should benefit from the programmes are often left out.”

According to the EESC, the “think small first” principle requires policymakers to give full consideration to SMEs at an early policy development stage – as soon as possible – to help SMEs in Europe cope with the challenges they are facing.

SMEs form the bedrock of European economy. According to the European Commission, these enterprises represent 99% of all businesses in the EU. What is more, 85% of new jobs and two-thirds of total private sector employment in the EU were accounted for by SMEs in the past five years.