On 30 May the Council agreed on the main elements of the Competitiveness of Enterprises and Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) Programme (called COSME) which is designed to boost the creation, growth and competitiveness of this category of companies across the EU.
Today's debate saw an agreement on the programme's content, whilst its budget will be decided in the context of ongoing negotiations on the future EU multiannual financial framework. The current draft regulation on COSME foresees a budget of 2.5 billion euros for the whole period.
The agreement allows the Council to start negotiations with the European Parliament, which should lead to the final adoption of this 7-year programme (2014-2020) by 2013.
"This is a very positive result of our discussion today. (…) I believe it will boost SMEs and growth in general", said Ole Sohn, Danish Minister for Business and Growth, who chaired the meeting.
Better access to finance
In its current draft, the COSME programme includes two financial instruments: the equity facility and the loan guarantee facility, both designed to facilitate SME access to finance.
The first will provide venture capital for an enterprise's growth phase, and the second will cover loans of a certain size for all types of SMEs.
The instruments will be managed by the European Investment Fund in cooperation with financial institutions in the Member States.
Non-financial support for SMEs
Other actions in the programme are intended to boost SMEs' competitiveness and their internationalisation, and to foster entrepreneurial culture in the EU in general, for instance, by providing special support to young or female entrepreneurs.
Programme's objectives include improvements made to the regulatory environment, notably a reduction in the administrative burden, the provision of free business support services (e.g. through the "Enterprise Europe Network", a "one-stop-shop" for SMEs ) and assistance offered to SMEs seeking to expand their business both in the single market and beyond the EU.
In addition to advantages for SMEs, the programme is expected to increase the EU's GDP by 1.1 billion euros and to create or safeguard around 30,000 jobs per year.
COSME will extend the running of a number of successful activities related to the current "Competitiveness and Innovation Framework Programme", which will expire at the end of 2013.
Press release (pdf)
Press conference (video)
Council's debate (video)
Competitiveness of Enterprises and SMEs programme (Europa portal)
Council meeting document (pdf)