EU-Council meeting on April 23rd 2020: Crisis Funds and EU Budgets ok, but SMEs Cannot Wait Any Longer– The EU must act now and “Reload Europe”

European Entrepreneurs CEA-PME, the biggest European confederation of voluntarily organised Micro, Small and Medium-sized companies, positively remarks that the European Council that took place on 23rd of April has made some important steps forward regarding funds for crisis interventions, approving the Eurogroup proposals, and towards a recovery fund for the European Union, financed with the EU-Budget.

However, our confederation also notes that no concrete decisions on how to act practically have been taken yet, which we believe is a truly missed opportunity to help now those most affected by the economic crisis – the SMEs across the continent who are the backbone of the European economy!

The EU and its Member States must decide as soon as possible - and surely not letting another month pass by - for a strategic package of concrete actions. It is essential to know how new funds will be used and how they will be allocated. Companies need to have an easy access to liquidity and support, and this must be spelled out clearly.

Furthermore, initiatives to restart the economy must be coordinated among all EU countries, as the Commission and the Council presidencies proposed with their “Joint Roadmap towards lifting COVID-19 containment measures”. But this roadmap is nothing but a recommendation to member states which yesterday have just “welcomed” it. No taking over of responsibilities, no dates, no agreements on concrete measures or methods. Nothing concrete. That means each Member state can do what it prefers and when it wants.

Commissioner Breton recognized in the past days, that for example tourism is the hardest hit sector in Europe. He seemed to be ready to find money for this sector, but he also proposed a Conference in September to talk about that. This is too late. We want to know now how to allow holidays this year and which funds at least the smallest, family-owned businesses in the tourism and gastronomy sectors can obtain to get a second chance.

Our confederation, together with ESBA, the European Small Business Alliance, and EVBB, the European Confederation of Professional Training Providers, and with AMSP, the Czech SME Association, has proposed a Reload Europe Strategy which puts SMEs in the centre. It is a thorough approach that includes, among its seven key points, the following 3 priorities:

·Liquidity support and direct financial aid for SMEs to be made available as soon as possible, for example by asking public administrations and the EU’s services to pay project grant beneficiaries and service providers in no more than 7 days, and by tighter conditions for the SURE funds, to oblige member states to do direct financial aid to the self-employed and micro-enterprises.

·A reopening of the Single Market by summer 2020, so that all possible barriers to a pan-European recovery are removed, compatibly with reasonable safety and health provisions.

·Give companies that had to shut down or are on the verge of doing so a second chance and relaunch their competitiveness with a Reload SME Programme of min 10 billion Euro.

This programme could be used to support the creation or finalisation of new ideas, new services, and new products.Fast roll-out, easy application and short-term implementation are crucial. Parts of it can be already modelled on successful past programmes, like DigitaliseSME, supporting the digitalisation of SMEs, or MobiliseSME, the Erasmus for SMEs and their employees that helped them find new clients and markets abroad.

European MSMEs cannot wait any longer: the time to act is now, and the actions must be concrete and coordinated or the fundamental building blocks of our economy will suffer in a way that will make recovery much harder and slower.

 


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