Susana Solis: ‘SMEs are the most reliable muscle of European economy’
Supporting SMEs has always been a priority in my political agenda. Both in Spain and in the EU, this sort of business have worked as a source of growth, change and equality. They are the most reliable muscle of European economy. We often hear that they are the backbone of our economy, and while this metaphor might be overused the message is true: they act as a merging force, developing local communities and enhancing the welfare state as we know it nowadays.
With SMEs, the EU must be resolute and take action: these are our main goals within the Task Force. Therefore, one of my concerns regards the role of the SMEs in rural and depopulated areas. We are currently witnessing a change in territorial structures in Europe, in some countries more than others, which is followed by a demographic challenge that is emptying rural areas of young people and innovative projects.
I have advocated for specific measures to help the regions to attract talent to promote entrepreneurship, and I consider a priority to ensure physical and digital connectivity, -especially 5G in rural areas-, the removal of the administrative red tape and incentives to set up businesses in depopulated territories. Thus, it will be also critical to promote regional Smart Specialization Strategies (RIS3) to untap the potential of regions in specific sectors.
SMEs have the potential to turn these areas from “lonely places to places of opportunities”, but to achieve it; we need to listen to the entrepreneurs’ claims before implementing any measures.
In this regard, I have conducted a survey to more than one thousand SMEs in Spain in order to recognize their needs and challenges. This study has enabled us to identify one of the main problems for the small business: the access to European founds. As we learned from the survey, 62.1% of Spanish SMEs are aware of the existence of European funds (Cohesion Policy and the Recovery Package), but 87% of them have never use them because they do not know where to find the proper information and because of excessive bureaucracy.
How did we get to this point? We have the resources to rebuild the economy after the Covid crisis, but the ones who need it most, do not know how to reach them. As I did at Spanish level, I believe that information could help us, as members of the European institutions, to understand the complex landscape of the SMEs. A large survey at EU-level could be helpful to reduce the information gap.