This week, CECOP pursued its follow-up of the Small Business Act theme by attending a Commission Hearing. All the actors linked to this project were present that is the European Commission, the European Parliament, the Member-States (with the Ministry of the Economy of Slovenia) and many exponents of SME.

This hearing was a mean for the participants to give their point of view and will concerning the Commission's project to carry out a European Small Business Act, similar to the American law of 1953. All pointed out that SME (99% of the enterprises in the EU) are essential to achieve the Lisbon Strategy objectives. The SBA initiative was warmly welcomed because it should represent the opportunity to resolve the SME obstacles.

Thus, the SBA should enable a better SMEs creation environment with a reduction of cost and delay but also should focus on development with, for example, financial helps for R&D activities.

The question of SMEs access to public procurements and quotas were also brought up. Concerning the place of SMEs in the European policies, participants wish mainstreaming to go further and for SMEs to integrate all the European policies.

Mr Benassi, General Secretary, formulated the main idea of this consultation that is “SMEs have to be considered as the rule and not as the exception”. However, some fears appeared concerning the legal value of SBA.

Entrepreneurs expressed their will to have a restricting SBA for Member-States so that “SMEs work in the better environment as possible”. Mr Verheugen, the European Commission Vice-President, reminded that SMEs policy remains a Member-State competence, falling under the principle of subsidiarity, but it is necessary that the latter get engaged efficiently. Agnès Mathis, Cooperatives Europe, put the cooperatives back in the debate by specifying she did not want actions which excluded the cooperatives anymore.

Overall, she wanted to obtain confirmation that cooperatives will be concerned by SBA. Ms Francoise Le Bail, “SME Envoy” in the DG Entreprise (cf regulars meetings with her related in the CECOP Link), confirmed the place of cooperatives in this project. She took part in the constitution of Cooperatives Europe, at the end of 2005 and, last year, spent three days in Mondragon through CECOP.