Strategies for Mitigating the Impact of Covid-19 on the European Economy
💬 We are undergoing an important outreach campaign in order to highlight some of the most pressing concerns of the #SME sector to European decision-makers during #Covid19 outbreak. Supporting European SMEs is necessary to prepare the pass of Europe’s recovery and boost economic growth. On Monday April 6, 2020, SME Connect hosted a 🎦 Webinar titled “Strategies for Mitigating the Impact of COVID-19 on the European Economy” in order to discuss the COVID-19 crisis, its economic impact, and the possible response from the different perspectives of institutional actors and business representatives.
The Webinar showcased high-level speakers such as Domagoj Ivan Milosevic MP, Member of the Croatian Parliament, Kristin Schreiber, Director for SME Policy at DG GROW, European Commission, Ralph Kamphöner, Head of Brussels Office, Confederation German Textile and Fashion Industry, Michale Jäger, Secretary General, Taxpayers Association of Europe, Roberto Corciulo, President, IC & Partners, and Jörgen Warborn MEP, as well as Dr. Horst Heitz, SME Connect’s own Chair of the European Steering Committee.
Domagoj Miloševic opened the webinar with a welcome speech concentrating on the cross-sectorial nature of the COVID-19 crisis: it has impacted the health, digital and economic systems of Europe and, as such, it has highlighted strengths and weaknesses at both a national and European level. For this reason, structural reforms are needed to make Europe’s economy more resilient against future crises, a point that was further remarked by Jörgen Warborn MEP in his conclusion speech.
Kristin Schreiber, Director for SME Policy at DG GROW delivered a keynote statement explaining the measures taken by the European Commission to contain the crisis. Together with an increased flexibility for state aid rules and credit holidays, the European Investment Fund has allocated EUR 1 billion to incentivize banks to guarantee liquidity for its SME clients and the grant procedure for innovative solutions to COVID-19-related issues has been fast-tracked, with a combined financing of EUR 15 millions between grants and equity funding. The importance of Research & Development was further mentioned by Michael Jäger, who stressed its primary role at a national and European level.
Whilst a substantial amount of money has been mobilized through support measures, it is imperative that it reaches SMEs as fast as possible.
For this reason, existing regulation should be made smarter and its convergence with national legislation should be filtered through a real and proper SME test which ensures its functionality for SMEs, the backbone of European economy. Moreover, Schreiber, without dismissing the gravity of the COVID-19 crisis, stated that any future exit strategy developed by the European Commission would still fit into the wider framework of the European SME Strategy released on March 10th, 2020, and its focus on digitalization and sustainability.
Ralph Kamphöner brought the perspective of a business association, the Confederation German Textile and Fashion Industry, whose members range from SMEs to global players but who still suffers from the same issues, the disruption of the global supply chain first and foremost. Direct help for SMEs is needed, with special attention to ensuring liquidity and reinstating connectivity, as remarked by Roberto Corciulo.
Lastly, in his conclusion speech Jörgen Warbon MEP suggested to take a page from Churchill’s book and “never let a good crisis go to waste.” Notwithstanding the current challenging circumstances, SMEs and their issues are a trending topic at the moment, and this should be taken as an opportunity to build a competitive European Union in the long term through tailored reforms in the sector of digitalization, bureaucracy and the multiannual financial framework.