Next Government must align with EU Strategy to Support SMEs


Chambers Ireland welcomes the publication by the European Commission of a new SME Strategy, with the goal of empowering small businesses to make the digital and the sustainable transition.

Welcoming the announcement today (10 March 2020) Chambers Ireland Chief Executive Ian Talbot said, “In the last decade circumstance dictated the EU was tasked primarily with addressing the impacts of the financial crisis. The next ten years pose a very different set of challenges, where we must decarbonize the economy and invest in our cities and regions so that they are adapted to a net-zero carbon future. For the new EU term, Chambers Ireland calls on European policymakers to expand their ambitions to empower SMEs to be part of the policy solution.

Representing more than 93% of businesses in Europe, SMEs are a driver of economic growth and account for two-thirds of the total jobs created in the EU. However, SMEs, by virtue of their size, also need support. The strategy published today sends a clear signal that the EU recognises the value of SMEs as key players in the economy who make significant contributions to innovation and the wider value chain. We welcome commitments to support SMEs to embrace the Digital economy and embrace trade, both in the Single Market and beyond.

However, if this strategy is to be delivered on, the Commission needs to be much more cognisant of the laws it makes and the unintended impacts they can have. The EU can only fulfil its role as a pioneer of sustainable economic development if the ‘Think Small First’ principle becomes more than a slogan. Instead, it needs to be enshrined in European policy-making and policy implementation. This will require a more rigorous application of better regulation principles, measuring costs and benefits of alternative solutions, with an emphasis on conducting thorough SME impact assessments on legislative proposals.

Closer to home, last year the OECD completed a review of Ireland’s SME and Entrepreneurship policies. Part of their recommendations included the need for Irish SMEs to think globally and be supported to internationalize so they can become more productive. The Commission’s SME Strategy will go a long way in enabling this. However, the next Government must commit resources to support SMEs and entrepreneurs to access new markets, particularly in the markets where the EU has negotiated a trade deal. We’re calling specifically for an annual Action Plan for Trade Deals to improve SME engagement. If we want our economy to become more sustainable, the Government must also play its part to support our indigenous industry to compete globally.”

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