At its plenary session of 23 April 1997, the Economic and Social Committee (ESC) of the European Communities adopted an opinion on "SMEs in cross-border regions - Problems encountered in cross-border business relations, including those relating to technical requirements". The aim of the ESC opinion was to examine, on the basis of information collected from the socio-economic communities concerned, to what extent the essential conditions for cross-border exchanges are met, and what types of problems are encountered by SMEs in this area. The ESC points to a wide range of problems encountered by SMEs, relating, for example, to: - Excessive administrative charges and regulatory restrictions in relation to the volume and frequency of cross-border exchanges; - Registration procedures for businesses; - Inappropriate ecotax systems with regard to packaging conditions; - Fiscal and social representation; - Double taxation for businesses and employees; - Inadequate appeal procedures; - Reduced access to public markets. The Committee makes a number of proposals for actions aimed at resolving some of the problems faced and eliminating certain obstacles which could prevent an important section of the population from benefiting from the effects of the Single Market. In particular, the Committee supports the development of "Cross-border assistance offices", with support from the European Commission.