MEPs took to the floor in the plenary chamber last night and rallied on the European Commission to do more to help SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises) gain better access to credit and finance. Before the debate took place, North West Conservative MEP, Sajjad Karim, said: “Everyone recognises that SMEs are the engines of economic growth, however growth is stalling as SMEs are not receiving the fuel that they need.” The 23million SMEs make up to 98% of businesses in the EU and provide 67% of its jobs. However many small businesses have been hit particularly hard with the lack of available loans and finance from banks since the financial crisis. SMEs are more likely to operate on borrowed funds. Sajjad Karim, the Conservative Legal Affairs spokesperson whose ‘Better Legislation’ report was adopted last year and exempts micro-businesses from burdensome regulation, said during last night’s debate: “We need to improve provision, process and access to information on financing instruments for SMEs. Even larger businesses struggle to find the information they require. What chance can there be for SMEs in those circumstances?” The Conservative MEP then went on to highlight measures he undertook to help businesses in his region: “As an MEP I get enquiries all the time and I have had to now go away and produce a leaflet for businesses to distribute to them electronically and otherwise, directing them where to go (for EU financing).” There was a broad consensus amongst all MEPs last night who agreed that SMEs were vital for the EU economy and that more EU support should be provided. Sajjad Karim echoed Margaret Thatcher’s entrepreneurial spirit. He said: “I come from a nation of shopkeepers; we must think ‘small’ first, and exclude SMEs from burdens, unless the benefits outweigh those burdens.” The European Commissioner for Enterprise and Industry, Antonio Tajani, highlighted the precarious position of SMEs. He said: “(SMEs) are the first to get into choppy waters. We have to address ourselves with a strategy for growth. It is through SMEs that you can help workers and stop layoffs.” The EU continues to search for ways of boosting economic growth and recover from the financial crisis through ‘Horizon 2020’ and ‘EU 2020’ which are Europe’s growth strategy for the coming decade. As pointed out in the Europe 2020 Communication, the financial crisis has halved Europe’s growth potential. Many investment plans, talents and ideas risk not being realised because of uncertainty, sluggish demand and lack of funding.
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