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Neil Burton

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Neil Burton - Verifone

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EC review of Small Business Act

23 February 2011  |  5975 views  |  0

Today, the European Commission has published a review of the Small Business Act, which is the legal framework for a number of pro-small business initiatives, including provisions to promote timely payments. This is - like SEPA - part of the Lisbon agenda.

SMEs, defined as companies with no more than 250 employees and a maximum turnover of €50 million, are generally seen as the backbone of the European economy, accounting for 99% of EU businesses and providing around three-quarters of all private sector jobs.

SMEs face a number of inhibitors to engaging in export. A survey carried out by the Commission in summer 2010 revealed that about 70% of companies interviewed considered that problems recovering debt in another country constitute an obstacle to engaging in cross-border activities. Challenges for SMEs were reinforced in a survey of UK SMEs carried out by Earthport, in 4th quarter 2010. Of more than 100 companies who participated, 41 per cent cited the cost of making and receiving international payments, after fluctuations in exchange rates, as the top frustration.

Overall, the debt written off by EU business amounts to €55 billion a year, according to an internal paper by the EU executive. The European Commission estimates that 63% of cross-border debt is not recovered.  The review lists facilitating cross-border debt recovery as one of the new initiatives.

Other initiatives to be undertaken by the Commission include:

·         promote across the EU the application of the "only once" principle whereby public authorities and administrative bodies should refrain from requesting the same information, data, documents or certificates which have already been made available to them in the context of other procedures;

·         present an action plan for improving SMEs’ access to finance, including access to venture capital markets, as well as targeted measures aimed at making investors more aware of the opportunities offered by SMEs

·         work together and strive to enhance electronic interoperability in the Internal Market, in particular delivering on the Single Market Act’s proposal for a decision by 2012 to ensure mutual recognition of e-identification and e-authentication across the EU and the revision in 2011 of the Directive on electronic signatures.

The review invites Member States to adopt other actions including:

·         reduce the time needed to get licences and permits (including environmental permits) to 1 month by the end of 2013;

The full text is available here.

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