Atidzhe ALIEVA-VELI: ‘Access to finance is one of the main obstacles to SMEs in European economies’

Small and medium enterprises (SMEs) are the key players in the European economic market. They represent 99% of all businesses. Their role as the biggest source of employment is at utmost importance because they are providing means of living for more than a half (57%) of the workforce through the European Union, especially women and the young. That is why from the EMPL perspective, they are one of our main priorities.

I truly believe that defining a strategic framework for SMEs is crucial. Entrepreneurship is an engine for economic growth and job creation. It is important to establish a series of actions that will improve the competitive capacity of companies, as well as contribute to creating an adequate climate to favour their growth.

The global economy was shaped by important and massive technological changes in recent two couple of years because of the COVID 19. Many of these tools were adapted by us as a response to the Pandemic conditions and they suddenly became the new normal. For example, the COVID-19 crisis has served to highlight the role played by platform workers in ensuring business continuity for thousands of SMEs across the EU by providing a much needed interface between key sectors such as food and transport and consumers. And now the researches show that residents will not stop using the online services. Having this on mind, it is crucial to improve the competitiveness of SMEs and help them to achieve business innovation by better adaptation to the digitalization process. Although Europe is home to a world-leading artificial intelligence (AI) research community, as well as innovative entrepreneurs and start-ups with a strong technological base and has a large industrial sector, it is necessary to ensure the incorporation of AI technology across the European economy.

On the one hand, the education for SMEs is a fundamental element of our strategy- providing the competencies and skills necessary for them to carry out entrepreneurial initiatives, technological developments and ability to use the opportunities offered by the global market in the future. We need to make sure that all of the workers and business owners can benefit from skilling, re-skilling and up-skilling programmes.

On the other hand, it should be remembered that access to finance is one of the main obstacles to SMEs in European economies. In general, new companies have lower credit quality and greater difficulty in providing sufficient information to allow financial institutions to discriminate between the most solvent and the riskiest companies. In addition, the lack of information, the ignorance of the administrative procedures to request them or the lack of knowledge about the advantages and disadvantages of each form of financing are important barriers to solve. That is why I insist on the ensuring the greater access to information and administrative simplification for SMEs.

Finally, our main goal is to provide more opportunities and be the voice of the SMEs. Together we can move EU towards better future!

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