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SME Envoys’ Meeting: Proposals for adapting to the digital economy

On March 18-19, 2019, the Ministry for Business Environment, Trade and Entrepreneurship – with the support of the European Commission DG GROW – organised the SME Envoys’ meeting under the auspices of the Romanian Presidency of the Council of the EU.

Minister Ștefan-Radu Oprea conveyed the message that in order to build the SMEs’ competitiveness for the long term, Europe needed a mature, proactive and innovative policy that would generate employment opportunities and prosperity within the local and regional communities. “We want to amend the Small Business Act in order to adapt the European SME ecosystem to the developments in digitalisation. In order to have a competitive business environment, we need to facilitate private investments, to remove bureaucratic bottlenecks and to create a European-wide digital infrastructure”, stated Ștefan-Radu Oprea.

Under the future EU Multiannual Financial Framework 2021-2027, such projects that deliver on digitalisation, on practical applications of artificial intelligence, robots or new digital technologies – notably the 5G communication standard or blockchain – will be financed either directly or through operational programmes at Member State level. The beneficiaries can also include SMEs. Together, these processes will deeply change the economies within the Community and will concurrently mark the irreversible shift to a digital economy in Europe.

In connection to that topic, Romania proposed to update the Small Business Act by introducing the notion of digitalisation. The proposal can materialise either by supplementing the 10 existing principles with a new one, or by adding it under the “Skills and innovation” principle.

The event was an excellent opportunity for the relevant national authorities to approach topics of shared interest with the representatives of the European institutions, as well as with the entities operating within the national and European innovative ecosystems, in order to boost national entrepreneurship through associative structures such as business incubators and accelerators, hubs and clusters.

The first day agenda included a site visit to the “Horia Hulubei” National Institute for R&D in Physics and Nuclear Engineering in Măgurele, where the participants were presented the European project Extreme Light Infrastructure – Nuclear Physics (ELI-NP). On the second day, the conference took place at the headquarters of the National Bank of Romania.

Background information

SME envoys in EU countries are appointed by the MS national governments. The network promotes the SMEs’ interests throughout government bodies, including at local level, and ensure that the “think small first” principle is integrated into their policy-making and regulatory proposals. It acts as an interface between the Commission and national policy-makers for the implementation of the Small Business Act (SBA) and has a say in the evaluation and reporting on the SBA uptake by the Member States. The framework for the EU policy on small and medium-sized enterprises, i.e. Small Business Act for Europe (SBA), which was adopted by European Commission Communication (COM (2008) 394 of 25.06.2008 and was subsequently revised in 2011, reflects the Commission’s intention to recognise the central role of SMEs in the EU economy. The name of “Act”, symbolically given to the document, underlines the Commission’s political will to put in place – for the first time – a comprehensive policy framework built on 10 principles that underpin the formulation and implementation of EU SME policy.

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