Andreas Glück: “I am working to protect SMEs from ever more red tape and bureaucracy”

Small and medium sized enterprises are an issue very close to my heart and at the centre of my party’s, the FDP’s policy focus. In my home region of Baden-Wuerttemberg, like in most of Europe, SMEs have an immense significance for economy and society. Across sectors, many SMEs are “hidden champions” — absolute world leaders in their respective specialization.

I am thus happy to represent the interests of SMEs from all over Europe in the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety. With climate change and the Covid-19 pandemic high on the agenda of the European Parliament, I am expecting a large number of influential files in the ENVI committee in the coming weeks, months and years. Influential particularly also for our economic fabric of European SMEs.

Independent of the policy area, I am working to protect SMEs from ever more red tape and bureaucracy. While bigger companies often have their own legal departments dealing with the implementation of the latest regulations, SMEs are particularly hard hit by more red tape. Given the importance of SMEs for the European economy, new bureaucratic burdens thus really signify a big hindrance. In this regard, we really have to keep things as simple as possible.

In the context of climate legislation for example, new bureaucratic burdens take the form of additional disclosure and reporting requirements. To make sure that the green transition is not overworking the backbone of the European economy and innovation, Renew Europe has to insist on strict proportionality checks accompanying new climate initiatives. Consequently, SMEs should be exempted from requirements, putting a disproportioned bureaucratic burden on them.

New bureaucratic burdens are, however, not limited to the realm of climate legislation. Also in the area of health policy, recent new legislation has failed to grasp the specific challenges for SMEs. With regard to the Medical Devices Regulation (MDR) and the In-vitro Diagnostics Regulation (IVDR) for example, I have received a lot of feedback from stakeholders that SMEs find it hard to register their products with the newly established official bodies. As a result, many SMEs had to (temporarily) take their products from the market. Again, this shows a lack of consideration for the situation of SMEs in Europe, despite their considerable importance for economy and society. Just like in the case of climate legislation, Renew Europe has to be the advocate for our European SMEs and insist on proportionality checks, transition periods and exemptions where necessary.

Another key issue is technology neutrality. Unfortunately, with the presentation of the “fit for 55” package, the Commission has chosen a different path. The narrow focus on battery-electric e-mobility, defined as clean via tailpipe-emissions regulation, and the proposal to only allow the registration of zero-emission cars from 2035 might mean the end for the combustion engine and of individual mobility as we know it. Whether a combustion engine burns fossil fuel or climate-neutral synthetic fuel as well as the fact that a lot of CO2 emissions are released in the production processes of electric cars are ignored. To measure the real environmental effect, we have to introduce a lifecycle assessment, instead of narrowly focusing on tailpipe emissions. Consequently, while the current approach does not benefit the climate, it does risk the existence of SMEs and millions of jobs all across the EU.

Renew Europe should, thus, strongly push for the return to technology neutrality. Instead of banning existing technologies, the Commission has to increase funding for new, cutting-edge technologies that are contributing to our climate goals while creating new jobs and continued prosperity. The European strategy for hydrogen, for which I acted as the shadow rapporteur for the ENVI opinion, is a good starting point.

Given the huge importance for the SMEs for the European economy, the green transition and our way to climate neutrality can only succeed when the SMEs are a part of it. In the ENVI committee I will, therefore, continue to work hard for a green transition and a Health Union that take into account the peculiarities of SMEs all around Europe. New, disproportioned bureaucratic burdens have to be avoided and technology neutrality has to be strengthened. In future, we should make better use of the unmatched innovative strength of our SMEs to face the challenges of today and provide the solutions of tomorrow.

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