The European Commission recently launched an extensive consultation exercise to gather inputs for the preparation of the ‘EU 2020 Strategy’, a document outlining the future priorities of EU policy for the next 10 years.
Replying to the consultation, the European Builders Confederation (EBC) – as the voice of construction crafts and SMEs in Europe – made clear that no EU-wide strategy can be launched without clear mention and focus on SMEs. This is why it is clear that the consultation document is a very disappointing paper, since SMEs are very rarely mentioned and the Small Business Act for Europe (SBA) is completely absent.
BETTER ACCESS TO FINANCE FOR SMES
The three axes of the SBA - less administrative burden, better access to finance and better access to markets for SMEs - must be maintained and reinforced by all future EU legislation, always based on the ‘Think Small First’ principle, to which all EU institutions pledged to abide.
In addition, EBC requested particular care for construction SMEs in the main priority areas that the Commission document outlined.
EBC insisted on access to finance and the fundamental need to facilitate it by improving existing and introducing new ways to increase SMEs’ possibilities to access finance. EBC also recalled that credit and liquidity problems for SMEs can be partly solved by shortening payment delays in commercial transactions thanks to a quick adoption and implementation of an improved late payments directive.
FUNDING FOR TRAINING
Concerning training and new skills, EBC called for further enlargement of the European Social Fund (the EU fund for training) to green technologies and professions, also allowing training to self-employed people and craftsmen.
Innovation is – and should be – a key priority area, but it cannot be based solely on massive R&D. Indeed, EBC pointed out that SMEs also play a key role as innovators relying on qualified and dedicated entrepreneurs and employees, to improve their products, services and distribution models.
Further European discussions will focus on the first draft published by the European Commission. EBC will follow the development of the strategy, informing decision-makers and advocating for our concerns to be heard. Adoption of the strategy is expected in June 2010.
Increasingly, legislation on many issues which affect people involved with the construction industry is being driven by Europe.
Recognising this, the FMB became a founder member and an active voice within the European Builders Confederation, a group of national building federations representing small and medium sized building businesses among the member states of the European Union and Switzerland.
For members of the FMB, membership of the EBC is free.
For more information, visit: www.eubuilders.org