Following the Green Paper consultation process, the Commission on 11 February published its ' Action Plan: The European agenda for Entrepreneurship'. The Action Plan is designed to provide a strategic framework for boosting entrepreneurship, complementing ongoing work, especially under the 2000 Multiannual Programme for Enterprises and Entrepreneurship.
The Action Plan aims to encourage more people to start businesses and to help entrepreneurs thrive. The Commission has emphasised that a joint effort from Member States, professional organisations and local authorities is needed to achieve this target, promoting a 'co-ordinated approach'.
To enhance the situation of entrepreneurship in the EU, the Commission proposes actions in five strategic policy areas:
1. Entrepreneurial mindsets: The Commission seeks to promote awareness of the entrepreneurial spirit by presenting best practise models and fostering entrepreneurial attitudes and skills among young people.
2. Better incentives for entrepreneurs: This does not only concern the possibility to register a business quickly and cheaply, but also the need for a fairer balance between risk and reward. The Commission plans to tackle the negative effects of business failures, facilitate the transfer of companies and amend social security systems for entrepreneurs.
3. Growth and competitiveness: The Commission sets out to promote access to support and management training for entrepreneurs from all backgrounds, especially women and ethnic minorities. Moreover, the Commission will encourage cross-border trading and support networks and strategic partnerships between entrepreneurs.
4. Access to finance: The Commission's aim is to create more equity and stronger balance sheets through improving the availability of venture capital, business angel finance and investments by private individuals. Existing financial instruments will be used and there will be an effort to lower capital taxes.
5. Regulatory and administrative framework: Administrative barriers and regulatory burdens need to be reduced and simplified in areas such as taxation, employment and environment. The Commission will concentrate on implementing the measures of its European Governance programme (2002) through better law-making, impact assessments and stakeholder consultation.
At its Spring Summit meeting in March 2004, the European Council adopted conclusions on 'Stimulating Entrepreneurship', recognising that entrepreneurship is a major driver of innovation, competitiveness, employment and growth and that encouraging and training more people to become entrepreneurs are key requirements for the achievement of the Lisbon objectives. Commission and Member States were called upon to boost the entrepreneurial mindset through education and training, improve the regulatory environment, facilitate access to finance and strengthen the dialogue between entrepreneurs and policy makers.
On 29 July 2004, the Commission has published details of the key actions of the Entrepreneurship Action Plan, describing the 38 planned sub-actions, objectives and the impact the activities are expected to have. The paper also sets out the role of the various actors involved (Commission, national and regional authorities and business support organisations), as well as best practice examples.