At a "Partnership '96" conference in Luxembourg on 11-12 July 1996, representatives of the European Commission, of SMEs, of the existing cooperation networks BC-NET and BRE, and of European banks met to discuss how to help SMEs "internationalize" their strategies and exploit opportunities for cooperation with third countries. "Partnership" is a yearly conference bringing together members of the partner search networks BRE (Bureau de Rapprochement des Entreprises) and BC-NET (Business Cooperation Network), and representatives from the enterprise contact services EUROPARTENARIAT and INTERPRISE, in order to lay the foundations for practical projects concerning cross-border cooperation and partnership between enterprises. This year's conference addressed the crucial topics of globalization and internationalization of the economy in the light of improving the competitiveness of European SMEs, notably by using the full potential offered by the Information Society. It analysed the opportunities for international cooperation with enterprises from third countries in the Mediterranean region, Central and Eastern Europe, the Commonwealth of Independent States, America and Asia, and looked at the financial and non-financial support offered by credit institutions for transnational SME partnerships. Opening the conference, Mr. Jacques Santer, President of the Commission, highlighted the importance of SMEs in contributing to job creation and economic growth in Europe. His colleague, Mr. Christos Papoutsis, Commissioner responsible for SMEs, welcomed the fact that the Member States have recently strengthened their policies in favour of SMEs and the convergence of national policies that has been achieved. He called upon all parties however to further unite their efforts at European level and stressed the role that the Community can play in achieving this goal. In this context, he pointed to the Commission's role in promoting the exchange of information between Member States, and the help provided through several horizontal Community policies, for example through the Structural Funds and the specific RTD programmes. He also highlighted the special policy actions developed by the Commission through the Third Multiannual Programme for SMEs which should be adopted by the Council at the end of 1996.