Wed. May 18th, 2022

On Tuesday 17 May, the European Court of Auditors (ECA) will publish a special report on EU support to help European small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) expand their business to international markets within and beyond the EU.

  • The report and press release will be published on the ECA website at 5.00 p.m. CET on Tuesday 17 May.
  • For interviews (incl. ahead of publication), statements and media queries, please contact the ECA press office at
  • The ECA member responsible for the report is Ivana Maletić.


In the EU, there are over 20 million SMEs – businesses which employ fewer than 250 workers; they employ in total around 100 million people and are the backbone of the EU’s economy. SMEs are, however, less active in international markets and do not contribute to international trade to the same extent as larger companies. Given the scale of the SME sector and their importance for the economy, measures that help SMEs to grow on the European and global markets can have a significant effect on jobs and growth in the EU. The EU has put in place various instruments to support SME internationalisation – the process by which SMEs become involved in international markets – and the EU funding specifically targeting SME internationalisation amounted to about €850 million in the 2014-2020 period.


The auditors assessed whether the EU support was coherent and coordinated and successfully contributed to the internationalisation of SMEs. They examined the EU’s strategy for SME internationalisation and two of the key initiatives, the Enterprise Europe Network (EEN) – the Commission’s primary tool for SME internationalisation – and another, smaller initiative Startup Europe, which is aimed at helping high-tech start-ups grow in European and global markets. Both initiatives are managed directly by the Commission and are the first contact points for European SMEs and start-ups seeking advisory supports and networking to start to trade internationally. 

The ECA’s special reports set out the results of its audits of EU policies and programmes or management topics related to specific budgetary areas. The ECA selects and designs its audit tasks to be of maximum impact by considering the risks to performance or compliance, the level of income or spending involved, forthcoming developments and political and public interest.