East Netherlands


EU focus on SMEs in COVID-19 recovery plan

The EU should focus more on the SMEs in its action plan for economic recovery in the aftermath of the COVID-19 outbreak. – This is wat Eddy van Hijum says. He is the Committee of the Regions’ rapporteur and advisor on the new SME-strategy of the European Committee, which was presented last March. At the presentation of his advice, Van Hijum particularly discussed the main challenge for the SME at present: to overcome the COVID-19 crisis.

Eddy van Hijum: “Capital assistance Europe for Small and Medium-sized Enterprises crucial to economic recovery from COVID-19 crisis”

“The recently presented European Committee’s crisis-recovery plans barely mention the SMEs, even though they are Europe’s largest employer providing two-thirds of all the jobs. Many are family businesses. My advice is to help the SMEs with capital assistance to strengthen the companies’ equity. New loans for SMEs would make a bad situation worse: they will hamper job growth, innovation and investments. Why does the government buy shares in airlines, but withholds capital assistance for SME-companies?

Think small first

But, there is more that Europe can do to help SMEs. The European Committee preaches “to think small first”, however, its own policy falls significantly short in addressing these companies. It is time for measures that really matter to the SMEs.

Van Hijum: “Europe should make sure to be present in regional economical capillaries, and grant access to European assets through regional hubs; networks in which governments, industry, education and knowledge centres work together. Good results are achieved by us in the province, during this time of crisis for example. Regional points of contact help companies to find their way to national emergency aid.

Next to this, Europe should boost the economy by investing regionally in energy transition, construction and infrastructure, and enable regional SMEs to profit from SME-friendly tendering.Protect the businesses better against unfair competition from outside the EU by making trade agreements on these points. This includes state aid, lower salaries and lower environmental standards.
And finally: assess the effects and burdens of EU-legislation, treaties and plans on the SMEs to make sure that they are not put at a disadvantage.”


Committee of the Regions

Van Hijum’s advice was compiled in close collaboration with the Lectorate Family Businesses at Windesheim University of Applied Sciences. The advice will be discussed by the Committee of the Regions in June, and is part of the European SME-strategy discussion in the European Parliament next Autumn.