EU policymakers must help Europe's SMEs to thrive within the green economy

Green growth report is first clear signal of support for Frans Timmermans' better regulation agenda, says rapporteur Philippe De Backer.

By Philippe De Backer

17 Jun 2015

The only way to sustain a growing population and economy with a limited amount of natural resources is by making a change. This is exactly what I wanted to demonstrate with my report entitled 'green growth opportunities for SMEs'. My aim was to identify the very promising opportunities that are out there for our companies.

At the same time, I wanted to lay out the problems faced by small businesses, and to draw a framework for overcoming them.


Green growth has huge potential for European SMEs, but the right conditions must be in place if they are to really benefit from it. I spoke to entrepreneurs, listened to business leaders and hopefully I distilled many of their comments into my report.

Most of the topics covered in the report are ones that were consistently repeated during these discussions. "How do I find adequate financing for my business? How can I be informed about the latest developments in technology and business practices? Who will help me set up a cluster with other SMEs?"

If we can manage to resolve these problems, I am convinced that we will create the framework in which our businesses can thrive in the green economy. It is important we do more to facilitate access to finance, which remains one of the biggest barriers to improving competitiveness and delivering innovation.

Today, there are still too many losses throughout the value chain of current production processes. We must move away from a throwaway society towards a more circular economy, in which we recycle products into resources. We must enable our small businesses to continue investing, innovating and pushing technological progress – this is the only way to ensure that European businesses remain global leaders in sectors such as recycling and energy efficiency.

My report does not only focus on what should be done, such as supporting knowledge transfer, ensuring better access to finance or fostering entrepreneurship and encouraging the spirit of enterprise. In recent years, the European commission has focused on venture capital as a possible means of financing growth, but in reality, this type of funding really only suits a small number of SMEs. Traditional banking and some of the alternative forms of lending to SMEs, such as credit unions, should be prioritised.

If Europe is to become more competitive, then it's vital that we focus on the growth areas – the circular economy will have a huge role to play over the coming years, and this sector offers many opportunities for small businesses; as they say, this is a win-win situation.

There is also a chapter in my report called 'deregulation as an engine for growth' that addresses regulatory issues, and I am pleased that many of my MEP colleagues supported my approach. I am convinced that we are too prescriptive at all levels of government. We often forget to ask ourselves what problem is it that we think we are actually fixing. We need to regulate where it is necessary to do so, in a way that is futureproof and doesn't block innovation or private initiatives.

I believe this report is the first clear signal of support for European commission first vice-president Frans Timmermans and his better regulation agenda. Sometimes, doing less or doing it better creates more opportunities for all


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