Antonio Tajani on SMEs, strategy and new economy

Antonio Tajani on SMEs, strategy and new economy
By Euronews
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Serge Rombi: “Hello and welcome. We’re with Antonio Tajani, a vice-president of the European Commission and Commissioner for Industry and Entrepreneurship. Hello.”

Antonio Tajani: “Hello everyone.”

Serge Rombi: “Factories are closing, unemployment is increasing, SMEs (Small and Medium-sized Enterprises), aren’t surviving the economic crisis. Is it all completely unavoidable or can we get out of it?”

Antonio Tajani: “We have to get out of it. We’re committed to putting the real economy at the centre of economic policies. We have made mistakes in the past, by only putting finance and services at the centre. We pushed industry and enterprise into a corner. But we have to do exactly the opposite: put industry and enterprise at the centre and use finance to help the real economy.”

Serge Rombi : “It’s urgent because some sectors are very badly affected, I am especially thinking of the automobile sector. The great majority of European manufacturers have really suffered in this crisis. Carlos Ghosn, the CEO of Renault, said a few days ago at the opening of the Paris Motor Show: ‘If things go on like this, Renault could disappear.’”

Antonio Tajani: “I am working on an action plan to help the automobile sector. We are going to increase the money committed in our financial plans to 1.5 billion euros for research and innovation in the ‘green’ car sector. Green cars will also be at the centre of our new industrial policy. So we will be putting everything into trying to meet the challenge of helping certain sectors, for example, SMEs. I’m thinking of the 23 million SMEs which are the powerhouse of our economy. We have to help them create new jobs. If every SME created just one job, we would have 23 million new opportunities in Europe for our young people. So we have to reinforce innovation, competitiveness, and internationalisation in SMEs.”

Serge Rombi: “We’ll come back to SMEs in a moment. Another concrete example in the industrial sector is steel. In France, Italy, Finland, and Spain the sector is very badly affected. How can we reverse this?”

Antonio Tajani: “We are working on it, with the unions, management, and the European Parliament. I am going to present an action plan favouring the steel sector before next summer, laying out what Europe can do to reinforce this crucial sector. Of course, there is a problem of remaining competitive with Chinese and other companies in Asia. We need a good strategy, a real action plan to defend this sector, which is crucial to our economy.”

Serge Rombi: “So we can expect an action plan next year?”

Antonio Tajani: “Of course.”

Serge Rombi: “You have been talking about off-shoring. A few days ago you said in an interview that the wind was changing. On what concrete facts do you base this opinion?”

Antonio Tajani: “This situation is forcing us to protect industry. We have to prevent the loss of our industries if we want to beat the crisis. We cannot simply ask our citizens to make sacrifices. We cannot just talk about reducing public debt. We have to draw up a proper strategy. That is why the European Commission has decided to prepare one. So the aim is to have 20% of GDP coming from industry before the end of 2020. It will be a real strategy to reinforce industry, and try to regain the position we occupied a few years ago. Industry was generating 20% of GDP a few years ago. So we need a new strategy, but not to recreate the same industries as we had 20 years ago. We have to try for a new type of industrial policy, highlighting our quality and meeting the challenges from China, India, Russia, the United States, and Brazil on quality. We can’t win on quantity but we have an opportunity to win thanks to the European network.”

Serge Rombi: “We’ll finish with SMEs. I’ll put myself in the place of an European entrepreneur today – we meet a lot of them on Euronews. They are confronted with many obstacles: administrative burdens, sometimes corruption, many difficulties. They feel powerless. There are also problems of bad debts, which is a real problem for SMEs. On these precise points, how would you reassure them, re-energise them?”

Antonio Tajani: “We have launched a poll asking entrepreneurs to describe the ten biggest obstacles they come across in Europe. And we’ll take concrete steps based on the results. We are already working on better regulations for SMEs. We are also working to reduce the administrative burden. My aim is to make it possible to start a new company in three days for only 100 euros. And then we want to ease access to credit. We organised a forum for SMEs to explain to them how they can access financing. And then there is the European Directive on late payments, to be applied in all Member States before the end of March 2013. SMEs will have to be paid within 30 to 60 days maximum, otherwise there will be an 8% penalty. All Member States will have to do it. So here’s a message from Europe to entrepreneurs and company employees, because if small companies have to wait a year for payments, they die and with them die tens of thousands of jobs.”

Serge Rombi: “One last question. It is European SME Week and I want to start my own business, to become an entrepreneur, and I’m lucky enough to be talking to the Vice President of the European Commission, and the Commissioner for Industry and Entrepreneurship. What sector would you advise me to try?”

Antonio Tajani: “I think the new economy. I would suggest space, or tourism, or nano-technology, biotechnology, the most modern sectors in which Europe can win. I mean it, tourism and space: there’s a big European Galileo project involving 30 satellites before the end of 2020 – the satellites are in orbit but the services will be in different fields: agriculture, transport, health, security, fishing. These are sectors where it is possible to do well and earn a good living.”

Serge Rombi: “Antonio Tajani. Thank you.”

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