East Netherlands


EU’s SME Assembly 2020

On November 16 and 17 of this year the SME Assembly took place, which was hosted by the European Commission and the German Presidency of the Council of the European Union. The Assembly is seen as the most significant event for small and medium-enterprises (SMEs) in Europe. Due to COVID-19, it was the first time that the Assembly was held as a fully online and virtual event. The Assembly featured a combination of high-level panels and interviews, expert roundtables, interactive workshops, informative masterclasses and innovative networking opportunities to help answer the most difficult questions facing SMEs during post-COVID. Attendees were able to register online before the event and were free to join several livestreams of their choosing throughout the two days.


German Minister Peter Altmaier emphasized the need to support SMEs in the digital & green transition, innovation and burdens of bureaucracy.




Key speakers and topics

Many top speakers joined the online Assembly, such as Commissioner Thierry Breton, Federal Minister for Economic Affairs and Energy Peter Altmaier and highly distinguished economist Dr Maja Göpel. Also part of the high-level programme, was Nobel prize winner Professor Jospeh Stiglitz who delivered the 2020 Schumpeter ‘Innovation in Enterprise’ Lecture from New-York. Professor Stiglitz is an American economist, public policy analyst and a professor at Columbia University. He won the Nobel prize in Economic Sciences in 2001.

Many different topics related to SMEs were discussed over the two days. These topics varied from “Maintaining businesses afloat in times of crises”, “SMEs as leading actors in EU’s digital sovereignty”, “Squaring the circle: encouraging circular practices”, “The impact of COVID-19 and sustainability as a business model”, and many more. The online event also presented opportunities for networking and for CEOs of different SMEs to present their success stories during the pandemic.

Nobel Prize winner Joseph Stiglitz says, “We need to transform our economic system from dependence on fossil fuels to renewables and to do that we need rapid innovation” and calls for a new partnership between the public and the private sector.


Youth Essay Competition

Part of the SME Assembly week is the Youth Essay Competition. Students between the ages of 18 and 25 from all over Europe handed in their papers in which they answered questions as “What do SMEs need to become sustainable and resilient, in the context of COVID-19 and other global challenges?” and “How can EU-policy best aid entrepeneurs?”. Three finalist were chosen by a jury to present their essays on screen. Following the presentations attendees were able to vote for who they considered to have written the best paper.

After voting was concluded Sabine Kerssens from the Netherlands was chosen as the winner of the Youth Essay Competition with her paper “A single startup scaleup market”. The three-pages-long essay can be read here: