by Fiona Hall MEP*
On Thursday and Friday this week, heads of governments from all EU Member States – including David Cameron – will come to Brussels for the Spring European Council which is dedicated to promoting competitiveness and economic growth.
Liberals & Democrats in the European Parliament (ALDE) are stepping up to the challenge by turning the usual Council rhetoric on the ‘need to stimulate economic growth’ into a concrete plan of action and measures that will help small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) create and safeguard local jobs. With SMEs making up to 99% of all businesses in the EU, providing two-thirds of all private sector jobs and creating six in every ten new jobs, we must do all we can to free their potential and help them grow and do business across Europe. We need to remove red tape and improve access to finance and to the single market.
Lib Dem MEPs are already working hard in the European Parliament to do just that. For example, my colleague Sharon Bowles is currently pushing to ring fence a certain proportion of a banks’ regulatory capital specifically for loans to SMEs, as part of her work on the Capital Requirements Directive. In the Energy Efficiency Directive, which I am negotiating on behalf of the ALDE Group at the moment, MEPs want to exempt SMEs from costly energy audits and instead provide them with advice on how they can benefit from saving energy.
But Lib Dem MEPs will also bring the campaign to the UK, surveying local employers, business organisations and union representatives in each region to learn about their specific needs and give them a strong voice across the EU. We have also started an ALDE4SME blog where MEPs will report back on their efforts and interactions with SMEs in different countries.
Business organisations from across the EU have already endorsed our initiative.
If you want to help get this campaign off the ground across the UK, why not spread the word on twitter and Facebook? Help us put SMEs and local jobs at the top of the political agenda in the UK and in Brussels!
* Fiona Hall is Leader of the UK Liberal Democrat Delegation in the European Parliament. We are grateful to Liberal Democrat Voice for this article