Brussels, 1 June 2022
We cannot repeat enough that SMEs are central to the EU economy, to its recovery and to its competitiveness. But much more than that, SMEs are central to the future of the EU’s society, to our social structure, to the success of the twin green and digital transition, said on Wednesday Margrethe Vestager, European Commission’s Executive Vice-President.
That’s a lot of responsibility. Especially compared to the – sometimes – limited means of SMEs, due to lack of financing, lower level of digitalisation, or limited resources to enjoy the full benefits of the Single market or internationalisation. Just to name a few challenges they are facing. They have also been the first impacted by the Covid crisis and by the ongoing instability.
SMEs partially compensate with their flexibility and innovativeness, but they need our full support in these difficult times and beyond.
We first owe to SMEs a competitive Single Market where they can grow and flourish by competing under fair conditions with larger companies. That’s at the core of my engagement.
That’s what competition rules are about. In all our instruments. Mergers ensure that companies do not simply buy a dominant position that would make it impossible for SMEs to compete fairly. Antitrust ensures that large companies cannot abuse from their position. State aid also work to the benefit of SMEs, by creating a fair environment.
That’s also at the core of our digital policies. Our Digital Markets Act sets out the rules by which large digital gatekeepers must play. The winners here are the digital business users – often SMEs – who rely on platforms to reach customers and find markets, added Vestager.
Our Digital Services Act is another example. This new law will make digital markets fairer for all businesses who abide by our rules. The Data Act, adopted late February, regulates data access and use in a way that will strengthen the bargaining power of SMEs and start-ups.
We also need to make sure that our rules are fit for SMEs keeping in mind their specific financial and resources constraints.
EU legislation should produce benefits without imposing unnecessary burdens on citizens and businesses. The SME Test is already part of the regular assessment and will continue to be applied for all relevant Commission proposals, emphasized Vestager.
The “One in, one out” principle aims that “every legislative proposal creating new burdens should relieve people and businesses of an equivalent existing burden at EU level in the same policy area”. It is essential for SMEs.
Competition rules also have a bespoke approach for SMEs and all State aid guidelines provide more flexibility. The recent review of State aid rules strongly focused on SME needs, introducing for example more flexibility for SMEs’ participation in IPCEI.
This balance between on the one hand financial and administrative burden and on the other hand the necessity of increasing the resilience of EU economy is of particular interest for SMEs. If SMEs have a lot to win from a functional single market, they could also have a lot to lose in case too interventionist tools are developed. I will be particularly attentive in finding the right approach in the ongoing discussions on the Single Market Emergency Instrument or any potential legislation on raw materials.
I know this is not enough and a lot remains to be done, but a lot of progress has been achieved in the past years to cater for the specific needs of SMEs. We adapted our rules and developed some concrete bespoke solutions for SMEs via for example the Enterprise Europe Network or InvestEU.
I will continue defending a competitive market that works for SMEs, concluded Vestager.