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Maximizing SMEs' potential for growth, competitiveness and employment

The European Commission, on the initiative of Mr. Christos Papoutsis, Commissioner responsible for enterprise policy, has proposed a Third Multiannual Programme for Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SMEs) to run from 1997 to 2000.

The proposed Third Multiannual Programme is...
The European Commission, on the initiative of Mr. Christos Papoutsis, Commissioner responsible for enterprise policy, has proposed a Third Multiannual Programme for Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SMEs) to run from 1997 to 2000.

The proposed Third Multiannual Programme is an integral part of the proposed European Confidence Pact on Employment. Its aim is to transpose priority policy objectives into a set of coherent actions, in order to maximize the contribution of SMEs to growth, competitiveness and employment. The budget proposed by the Commission for the programme is ECU 180 million. The programme will focus on three main objectives:

- Encouraging an environment favourable for the development of SMEs, through actions to:
. Ensure consideration of SMEs' interests in the various Community activities and policies;
. Simplify and improve the administrative and regulatory environment of enterprises;
. Improve the financial environment of enterprises;

- Improving the competitiveness of SMEs, in the context of the Single Market and internationalization, through Community action in the following fields:
. Information Services (Euro-Info-Centres);
. Cooperation between enterprises and access to new markets;
. Increasing the innovative potential of SMEs and facilitating their access to the Information Society;
. Stimulating management training, business culture and entrepreneurship;
. Specific actions for craft and small enterprises;
. Support for women and young entrepreneurs;
. Specific actions for enterprises in commerce and distribution;
. Cooperatives, mutual societies, associations and foundations;

- Improving consultation and SME policy development by:
. Improving knowledge about enterprises and SMEs;
. Increasing the promotion of SME policy actions;
. Developing and evaluating SME policy actions;
. Improving the consultation of SMEs.

The Commission has proposed stepping up the Community's Enterprise policy because SMEs, which account for 99.8% of all companies in Europe and 66% of total employment, are not exploiting their full potential and are thus constraining their ability to grow and create jobs.
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