Is the EU Single Market SME-Friendly? What Do SMEs Actually Need?

These were some of the questions debated during an event organised by BusinessEurope on 21 February 2017. Orgalime’s Director for Internal Market and Standardisation, Philippe Portalier, was in attendance to present the issues at stake for the micro to medium-sized companies of the electrical, mechanical and metalworking sectors. Many SMEs in Orgalime’s industry, Mr. Portalier stressed, are part of sector-specific, organised supply chains operating mostly in the business-to-business segments. They rely on exports to stay competitive, both to their EU neighbours and, increasingly, to the rest of the world. Therefore, a well-functioning single market is essential. Concrete sector-specific examples of barriers to trade were used to put the message across. For example, national certification and eco-label schemes are often imposed on electric appliances and other household equipment; there is divergence in national road safety approvals and homologation necessary for self-propelled mobile machinery to use the roads in one or another Member State; and local training certificates are often required for machinery installers in the customer’s country even though the workers in question are skilled and trained by the manufacturer. Mr. Portalier therefore advocated to make legislation as clear and simple as possible.

Furthermore, while the opportunities opened up by online trading are especially welcome to SMEs, the conference was an excellent opportunity for Orgalime to publicise the campaign for smarter compliance procedures. Mr. Portalier reminded attendees that real checks are the best strategy against rogue traders that save on bureaucracy (including ‘digital’ registers) at the expense of legitimate manufacturers. He called on the Commission representatives present, who are preparing a legislative proposal on “enforcement and compliance” to be announced mid-June, to make room for tailored public-private partnerships in support of market surveillance activities with a focus on stopping rogue traders.

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