Fabian Demicoli

Small Business Act: Commission’s report disappoints SMEs

GRTU was left disappointed by the EC report on the implementation of the Small Business Act at European and national level. According to GRTU, the text adopted today is a clear demonstration of the lack of ownership of the Small Business Act by Member States, only a few of which have acted in a comprehensive manner, while most have only cherry-picked parts of the package.

GRTU also criticises the European Commission for failing to publish a comprehensive assessment of the status quo, preferring instead a rather short and uncritical document that does not compare and contrast Member States' actions in the last 12 months. The SME organisation acknowledged the progress made on issues such as access to finance and standardisation, while stressing that SME organisations must be more involved to ensure an all-inclusive implementation of the SBA and of its principles. SME organisations in Malta have not been involved in any of the stages of the implementation of the Small Business Act.

The report is disappointing in more than one way. First of all, it is a very short and superficial document that amounts to little more than self-gloss by the Commission. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, it shows that only a handful of Member States have acted in a comprehensive manner, while most cherry-picked a few points and got away with it. All we have is a few examples from a few countries on a few issues. We are very, very far from where we should be one year after the adoption of the Small Business Act.  GRTU had expected a detailed country by country report.

As far as Member States are concerned, only two out of 27 have fully transposed the Small Business Act in their national policy programmes. Positive news came on some issues such as late payments, where some Member States are anticipating the recast of the EC directive and at times go beyond its scope, although they are much more willing to act on B2B payment terms than on their own payment delays. However, the picture at national level is far from being rosy, with most Member States failing to take advantage of the rules already in place and above all to put in place an all-encompassing transposition of the Small Business Act and its principles into national law.

As far as the Commission is concerned, GRTU was left unimpressed by today's report, which does not deliver an in-depth analysis of the situation and only provides a handful of positive examples in an uncritical manner. We acknowledged the progress made on legislation with the adoption of a number of proposals linked to the Small Business Act and recognise that the Commission has acted swiftly and positively to secure access to finance during the crisis and to promote SMEs' participation in and defence of their interests in the standardisation process. However, the EC must do more to embrace the "Think Small First" principles and significantly improve the "SME Test" recently introduced.

On the whole, the report shows a significant lack of ownership of the Small Business Act at national level and mixed results at European level. The Commission may say that progress has been made by looking at the adopted legislation, but when we speak to entrepreneurs on the ground we hear that nothing has changed. The Small Business Act suffers from a clear lack of commitment, which must be swiftly redressed in the coming months. This can be done for instance by involving more closely business organisations. It is not by chance that the countries that decided to do so are the more advanced in the implementation of the Small Business Act.   

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