Development of small and medium-sized business-friendly conditions help us contribute to competitiveness enhancement

26 November 2013, Last updated at, 13:30 EET
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Evaldas Gustas | author: Ministry of Economy

In the 2013 SME Assembly held on 25–26 November by the Ministry of Economy and the European Commission, representatives of companies, business organisations, European, national and regional authorities and academic community were discussing issues of significance. The main focus was placed on the issues related to SME access to finance, improvement of business environment, responsible business, green economy, impact by digital technologies, smart regulation and reduction of administrative burdens on business.

‘It is a great honour for Lithuania to host the SME Assembly - the event devoted to the small and medium-sized enterprises, which are key contributors to growth and jobs. Attempt towards increasing European competitiveness are potentially doomed if not aligned to the SME population. Therefore, achieving at least a small improvement of competitiveness among SMEs is likely to have impact on the whole society,’ said Minister of Economy Evaldas Gustas in his welcome address to the SME Assembly.

The Minister of Economy emphasized that we need to support potential founders and owners of enterprises to give them a chance to create and develop their business in the EU. The improvement of the SME-friendly regulatory environment and strengthening of the internal market with due regards to the SME needs were therefore at the core of the SME Agenda under the Lithuanian Presidency.

‘In recent years, SMEs in Europe kept suffering from the crisis; yet, instruments like the SBA have helped Europe achieve considerable progress in this area indeed. Following this Assembly, the European Commission considers appropriate to hold extensive public consultations seeking to properly contribute to the preparation and development of the new SBA as recently as in 2014. The new SBA will take due regards of the efficient implementation of significant initiatives, like the COSME and Horizon 2020 programmes,’ said Daniel Calleja, Director General of DG Enterprise and Industry.

During the discussions, the Assembly participants stressed that search for clients is among the most burdensome problems faced by small companies today. This demonstrates the functioning deficiencies of the EU Single market. Considerable attention needs to be therefore given to better implementation of the internal market rules and in particular the services market, since micro-enterprises make 95% of all service providers.

‘There is still a huge untapped potential for economic growth in the services sector but the existence of barriers hampers the potential of services sector, such as e-commerce, an area with a high growth potential and featuring many SMEs,’ Minister Gustas said.

The presentation of the Report on the implementation of the Small Business Act (SBA) was among the most important aspects of the Assembly. The Small Business Act offers guidelines to the Member States on how to improve business environment. In their annual reports on the SBA implementation, the Member States provide information about the approved specific measures which help reduce administrative burden on business, facilitate business set up and offer better access to financial resources.

‘The implementation of the SBA helps Lithuania create business-friendly environment and strengthen efficient administration based on the needs of enterprises. Lithuania has implemented 42 policy instruments in eight out of ten policy areas stipulated under the SBA. We have achieved results in the fields of state aid and public procurement, management based on the business needs and access to finance,’ emphasized the Minister of Economy when talking about the Report on the SBA.

The assessment of progress made by Lithuania according to the SBA principles provides that the level of entrepreneurship in Lithuania is 3% higher (26%) against the EU average. Europe’s average entrepreneurship level makes 23%. In 2009–2012, the number of individuals who wished to become self-employed and/or start their own business increased significantly. Moreover, the tendency of the young generation to engage in business and make use of innovation was observed. Yet, the Report notes that the implementation of the SBA in Lithuania could be even more successful with the improved efficiency of R&D and innovation.

During the SME Assembly, the European Enterprise Promotion Awards were presented to reward outstanding business and entrepreneurship initiatives in Europe. This year, hundreds of projects were competing to become winners. Following the national selection, 53 projects were appointed to be nominees at EU level.

The ‘Think Small First – Introduction to Micro’ initiative developed by the Latvian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) was awarded the Jury’s Grand Prize for the entrepreneurship initiative which was considered the most creative and inspiring in Europe.

Under the Promoting Entrepreneurial Spirit category, the ‘MyCity” initiative by the Finnish Economic Information Office, Finland, was rewarded. Under the Investing in Skills category, the ‘Senior Enterprise’ initiative undertaken by Ireland’s Mid East Region Public Authority was recognized the winner. Under the Improvement of Business Environment category, the ‘Starters’ Agreement for Entrepreneurs’ by the Department of Economics of the City of Ghent, Belgium, was announced the winner. Under the Supporting Business Internationalisation category, the Portuguese Association of Footwear Industries, Components, Leather Goods and their Substitutes with its project ‘Portuguese Shoes: The Sexiest Industry in Europe’ was rewarded. Under the Supporting the Development of Green Markets and Resource Efficiency category, ‘The Town of Gürsu Developing with Unlimited Clean Energy’ initiative by the Municipality of Gürsu,Turkey, was announced the winner. Under the Responsible and Inclusive Entrepreneurship, the ‘Integration of Disadvantaged People’ initiative by AV Mobilita s.r.o, Slovakia, aimed to integrate disabled people into the areas of life, was awarded.

This year, the ‘Development and Introduction in Schools of Lithuania of the Entrepreneurship Promotion Methods’ initiative by the public body SMK University of Applied Social Sciences and the ‘Entrepreneurship Promotion Fund’ initiative by UAB Investicijų ir verslo garantijos (INVEGA) were recognised the winners in the selection procedure at national level and were nominees under the European Enterprise Promotion Awards. The abovesaid national selection winners were presented with the Letters of Thanks by Minister of Economy Evaldas Gustas.

Following the data of the European Commission, since 2006, more than 2500 projects have been competing at national level for the possibility to have their efforts rewarded at the European Enterprise Promotion Awards. 35 projects from Europe have been awarded and recognised the best practice examples.

In the Assembly, which is among the events of the Lithuanian Presidency of the Council of the EU, more than 550 participants representing 23 million of SMEs in the EU, were present.

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