Solbes rules out financial aid for SMEs ahead of euro changeover

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Series Details Vol.7, No.42, 15.11.01, p25
Publication Date 15/11/2001
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Date: 15/11/01

By Martin Banks

ECONOMIC supremo Pedro Solbes has ruled out giving small businesses financial support to help them bear the cost of converting to the euro in the New Year.

And he has dismissed claims by some MEPs that "more needs to be done" for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

Portuguese deputy Ilda Figueiredo had argued that not enough assistance is available for firms, especially retailers, who will play a key role in the big monetary switch on 1 January. "Small businesses have a fundamental role to play in explaining the changeover to the public," she said. "Indeed, small businesses are a key element in the entire process of replacing national currencies with the euro. It will impose an extra effort over and above all the enormous changes in terms of book-keeping, data processing and documentation. Since we are talking about small businesses, it is essential that they are given proper assistance in shouldering this enormous effort - support which strikes me as currently rather under-funded, to say the least."

But Solbes, the economic and monetary affairs commissioner, said there are no plans to provide assistance. "The Commission does not provide any direct financial support to companies for their changeover to the euro and is not contemplating any," he said. "Support to business is generally provided by member states or business organisations but consists mainly of information and advice rather than financial help."

German MEP Christa Randzio-Plath said banks and retailers must "try harder" to ensure a smooth changeover. She has also called for the Commission to act against any banks that fail to apply existing EU rules on cross-border credit transfers. "The success of the changeover will depend on the citizens' confidence," said Randzio-Plath, chairwoman of the European Parliament's economic and monetary affairs committee. "This hinges on price stability and a ready supply of the new currency. There are concerns that converting and restocking all ATMs for the new currency could take up to a week, depending on the country. Banking organisations should be urged to increase the number of ATMs giving out euros from January 1 and to open their counters during the New Year's holiday to prevent a cash shortage during the first week of January."

Economic and Financial Affairs Commissioner Pedro Solbes has ruled out giving small businesses financial support to help them bear the cost of converting to the euro in January 2002.

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