Matthias Machnig, State Secretary in the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy, and State Secretary Dr Harald Mahrer of Austria's Federal Ministry of Science, Research and Economy today submitted to today's EU Competitiveness Counciljoint proposals for better access to financing for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).
State Secretary Matthias Machnig said: "SMEs are the driving force for more innovation, competition and employment in Europe. But they can only continue to fulfil their potential to generate jobs and innovation if they have access to financing. So the financing of SMEs must be a focus of European initiatives and projects. Together with Austria, we have submitted specific proposals for this today."
State Secretary Dr Harald Mahrer said: "We have a clear goal: faster and simpler financing for our companies. We need to step up a gear so that we don't miss the boat. The fact that this issue found its place on the agenda of the today's Competitiveness Council is an important first step. We now need a rapid roll-out, and we will continue to work hard together on this."
The aim of the joint initiative from Germany and Austria is to support the Commission's efforts to safeguard access to finance for SMEs. In many European Member States, and particularly in Germany and Austria, bank loans are still the main component of financing for SMEs. But there is a growing need for alternative funding sources, such as venture capital, especially for technology-oriented start-ups.
In order to strengthen SME financing in Europe, the two ministries propose that high priority be attached to the following measures in particular:
- The retention of the SME supporting factor, which was introduced as part of the European Capital Requirements Regulation to implement Basel III, and which reduces the requirements to be met by loans to SMEs.
- The expansion of the EFSI, as announced by Commission President Juncker.
- The rapid implementation of specific measures relating to the European Commission's Action Plan on the Capital Markets Union.
- The rapid implementation of measures to strengthen venture capital and entrepreneurship funds in Europe, such as the revision of EuVECA and EuSEF.
- The reduction of costs and regulatory barriers for SMEs accessing the capital market.
The two state secretaries propose that, as a next step, a joint meeting of the Competitiveness Council and ECOFIN be held to discuss the proposals.