|Author (Person)||Coss, Simon|
|Series Title||European Voice|
|Series Details||Vol 7, No.10, 8.3.01, p22|
EUROPEAN Commission plans to increase its direct contact with small firms across the Union have ignited a debate over the effectiveness of the EU's main small-business lobby.
Officials at the Directorate-General for enterprise say they are looking into the possibility of using the Internet to sound out the views of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) when drafting new business legislation.
But the prospect is not being welcomed by Brussels-based small-business lobby UEAPME, which worries it could be sidelined if the Commission goes ahead with its new policy.
"If they think this is the way to find out what SMEs think, forget it," said UEAPME economics expert Gerhard Huimer, arguing that small businesses in member states would not have time to answer complex Union executive questionnaires on planned new legislation.
He also says any SMEs that do manage to log onto the Commission's new site will find themselves confronted with a mass of incomprehensible EU jargon.
"The Commission officials are legal experts who speak a language of their own that the average small-business person just will not understand," Huimer said. "That is why you need an organisation like ours to play the role of a middle man."
Enterprise officials say their efforts to contact the small-business community via groups like UEAPME have not been as successful as they had hoped. "I am not convinced of the ability of these people to really represent SMEs," said one, who asked not to be named.
The effort to begin a direct dialogue with SMEs is part of the EU executive's ongoing review of its Business Impact Assessment (BIA) system.
The BIA was created in 1986 and is supposed to prevent the Commission coming forward with planned new industrial laws that would have an overly detrimental effect on the business community.
But the system has been widely criticised.
Opponents say the Union executive often fails to take into account the particular needs of SMEs when it is drafting business legislation. They argue that the institution still tends to consult with large firms and propose laws that favour big business.
The Commission admits it has trouble drawing up pro-SME legislation but says it is difficult to find a single organisation that speaks for small firms - hence the planned new Internet service.
But Huimer insists his group is perfectly qualified to speak for small firms. "Nearly all of our funds come from small business federations in the EU's member states," he said. "If they were not happy with the job we are doing then they'd stop paying us."
European Commission plans to increase its direct contact with small firms across the Union have ignited a debate over the effectiveness of the EU's main small-business lobby.
|Subject Categories||Business and Industry|