The Small Business Act for Europe was once again a key priority during the month of July for UEAPME, the organisation representing GRTU at European level, which marked the debut of the French Presidency of the EU. On 17-18 July, President Toifl and UEAPME attended the Competitiveness Council in Jouy-en-Josas, where the SBA was discussed as the central point of the agenda.
UEAPME was the only EU organisation present at the meeting. UEAPME the floor during the lunch of Ministers and Commis-sioners in order to illustrate some simple proposals that, if accepted, would finally grant a legally binding value to the SBA, at least as far as the EU institutions level is concerned. Since the principle of subsidiarity prevents the EU institutions from imposing at national and regional level the Think Small First principle, the way to "convince" Member States to commit themselves is that EU institutions legally commit themselves making their position more credible. This was UEAPME's request, which Vice President Verheugen accepted soon after the speech.
During the meeting, UEAPME also distributed to all participants a one-page assessment on the SBA, including positive and negative points in the current text. On the positive side, the EC abandoned in the Small Business Act a twisted logic made of rules for large businesses and exceptions for smaller enterprises in favour of the "Think Small First" principle that, if fully applied at all levels, would quickly rule out the need for derogations.
On the negative side, UEAPME regretted that no mention is made in the SBA of the labour market dimension and of flexicurity, which are crucial issues for the future of SME owners and their staff. Moreover, the concept of "growth" used throughout the Council's notes on the SBA is not in line with the reality of SMEs, and the lack of any additional funding source or legal basis for implementing the various measures and actions foreseen by the SBA is worrying.
UEAPME's assessment ended up with concrete solutions, in particular the request to upgrade the founding principles of the SBA ("Think small first", above all) to the level of an EU Inter Institutional Agreement (IIA). An IIA is a particular form of agreement where the three main EU institutions (Parliament, Council, and Commission) impose themselves principles and procedures to follow when undertaking new laws or actions.
GRTU back this initiative at a local level and we are lobbying to convinces national government to assign the Think Small First principle with a legally binding value or, at least, accept within the Council the conclusion of the IIA.