Fabian Demicoli

GRTU President and DG attend the 1st SME Assembly


GRTU President Paul Abela and Director General Vincent
Farrugia have participated to the highlight of the Cyprus EU presidency, the
first SME Assembly. The verdict of the Assembly was to remove obstacles and
strengthen finance through the future COSME programme to help SMEs ‘Go for
Growth'.

The Assembly was opened on 15 November by European Commission
Vice President P Antonio Tajani and the Cypriot Minister of Commerce, Industry
and Tourism, Neoklis Sylikiotis. The Assembly discussed the key challenges
faced by SMEs across the EU. With over 400 delegates, representing the 23
million SMEs in the EU, the Assembly, in Nicosia, brought together SMEs;
business organisations; European, national and regional government; the SME
Envoys, academia and the media to discuss how to help SMEs ‘Go for Growth.'

Wide-ranging discussions concluded that the main issues that
SMEs in Europe face are: access to finance, access to other markets (especially
outside the EU), skills and reduction of administrative burden.

Speaking out for small business interests in their countries,
the delegates underlined the key role that SMEs play in Europe. They are the
engines of growth and must find creative ways to thrive even in the most
challenging circumstances.  SMEs account
for 99.8% of all companies, and 85% of all the new jobs created over the past
10 years in the EU.

The Assembly also appealed to the Member States of the EU to
ensure that the future EU budget provides the necessary funding to support SME
growth and jobs. Ensuring access to sufficient finance to support SMEs has
never been more urgent. In particular the Assembly believed that the COSME
Programme (the Programme for the Competitiveness of enterprises and SMEs)
should be strengthened.

The SME Assembly recognized the importance of the European
Union's commitment to SMEs and its success in rolling out the Small Business
Act, the SME policy framework, at member state level. Delegates to the Assembly
took part in dynamic and interactive discussions and workshops which included a
video message from EC President José Manuel Barroso through to a ‘Big Debate'
with contributions from Jan Barnes of eBay EU and Arnaldo Abruzzini of
EUROCHAMBRES among many others.

The EU SME Envoy reported to the Assembly on the positive
progress of actions implemented by the Small Business Act in 2012, during the
first year of its activities. The SME Envoys of the 27 Member States agreed the
work programme and key objectives to be achieved in 2013.

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