UEAPME, a business organisation representing SMEs, published its 'Think Small Test' and 'SBA Scoreboard' today (31 May) and says the EU institutions have made some progress thanks to the 'Better Regulation' strategy.
However, it said the economic crisis has seen EU policymakers devote the bulk of their attention to banks and larger enterprises at the expense of smaller firms.
At national level, the picture is mixed. The UK comes in for particular criticism, while Belgium, Austria, Italy, France and Sweden also fared relatively poorly. Cyprus, Ireland and Slovenia were adjudged to have made the most progress over the past year in considering the impact on SMEs when drafting new laws.
Speaking at the closing event of SME Week in Madrid today, UEAPME Secretary-General Andrea Benassi said expectations raised by the SBA have only partially been met. He said member states have "largely failed to deliver so far," branding their commitment as "lukewarm".
'Fresh impetus' needed
The Commission, which is holding a consultation exercise aimed at giving fresh impetus to the Act, says it is looking for ideas on how to promote internationalisation and entrepreneurship among women.
In a document circulated as part of the consultation process, the EU executive accepts there are "shortcomings" in how the SME charter has been implemented and it plans to adopt a revised plan in October 2010 – based on the ten principles set out in the original text.
A key focus will be on the implementation process and ways to encourage member states "to back up their commitments with concrete actions" to help SMEs.
The Commission's enterprise arm is expected to outline how small firms fit into the wider policy priorities set out in the 'Europe 2020' growth strategy. Flagship initiatives on innovation, industrial policy and the digital economy are likely to feature elements which boost small businesses.
However, despite the policy shifts in Brussels, in the two years that have passed since the launch of the SBA, small firms have faced frozen credit markets and a deep fall in consumer spending. Around three million jobs have been shed in the SME sector in the wake of the crisis.
Business groups across Europe are ratcheting up the pressure on governments to follow through on their commitments to make life easier for small firms.