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Commission adopts new integrated programme for SMEs

Following a proposal by Mr. Christos Papoutsis, Commissioner responsible for enterprise policy, the Commission has adopted an integrated programme for SMEs, a direct follow-up to the European Confidence Pact for Employment. The programme aims to facilitate the coordination, co...

Following a proposal by Mr. Christos Papoutsis, Commissioner responsible for enterprise policy, the Commission has adopted an integrated programme for SMEs, a direct follow-up to the European Confidence Pact for Employment. The programme aims to facilitate the coordination, coherence and greater visibility of the total effort in favour of European SMEs and the craft sector. The programme aims to improve upon the initiatives and measures already taken by the Community and the Member States which are on occasion too narrowly targeted or not easily accessible to SMEs. It will ensure a closer partnership between all parties concerned with SME development at Community, national and regional level. It will not however replace the various measures being taken at national or Community level, nor interfere in the decision-making processes relating to these measures. The programme updates and develops the 1994 integrated programme in order to encompass the new priorities for SME policy set out in the Madrid SME Policy Paper. It will also contribute to achieving the aims set out in the European Confidence Pact for Employment and the conclusions of the European Council in Florence. These priorities and aims are as follows: - Simplify and improve the administrative and regulatory business environment for enterprises; - Improve the financial and fiscal environment for enterprises; - Help SMEs to "Europeanize" and internationalize their strategies, in particular through better information services; - Enhance SME competitiveness and improve their access to research, innovation, information technologies and training; - Promote entrepreneurship and support special target groups. In order to achieve these aims, the programme provides for three types of action: concerted actions with Member States; contributions from the EU in the framework of already existing enterprise policy measures (i.e. the Third Multiannual Programme for SMEs (1997-2000), an essential part of the integrated programme); and measures developed under other Community policies (e.g. Structural Funds, research and technological development, European Investment Bank, European Investment Fund). While the new integrated programme is based on the same methodology as the 1994 one (i.e. multiannual programme, concerted actions, actions under other Community policies), it also presents an array of new measures, including: - Concerted actions: Access of SMEs to the Information Society, forum on entrepreneurship, forum on craft and small enterprises, forum on commerce; - Actions under other Community policies: Simplifying internal market legislation (SLIM) initiative, loan guarantees for employment (ELISE) initiative, European Investment Fund equity support for SMEs, introduction of the "Euro", instrument for transnational investment within the EU, support for international cooperation, innovation in SMEs, and market-oriented technological development.