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SMEs in border areas

As the Dutch Province of Overijssel and the CoR state in the announcement of their survery on SME Policies of Local and Regional Authorities (see links at the end of this article):

25 million of Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SMEs) account for 99.8% of all companies in Europe, employ 66.6% of the labour force in the non-financial business sector and contribute 56.4% of the added value.

The COVID-19 pandemic is having a significant impact on all regional economies in Europe. The cashflow of many SMEs has evaporated due to a decline in turnover caused by social distancing measures. Most SMEs will be hit by this crisis and some will face bankruptcy. All levels of government within the EU have taken measures to avoid these bankruptcies amongst SMEs.

The particular situation and relevance of SMEs in border (and cross-border) areas, and their role in a quick recovery, has drown our attention to look for synergies in various projects where AEBR is involved during current and coming challenging times:

  • InterVentures is an Interreg Europe project led by Pannon EGTC (HU/SI/HR) and advised by AEBR. It is aimed to promote the internationalisation of SMEs in border areas, and its outputs and conclusions are expected to be useful for SMEs in most border regions.
  • b-solutions identifies legal and administrative obstacles to cross-border cooperation.
  • Interreg Volunteer Youth (IVY) has become a huge network of young people taking part in Interreg projects, participating programmes and projects, and related stakeholders.
  • AEBR Global Initiative team in Brussels follows EU regulations and calls related to various topics of interests for border (and cross-border regions), including the promotion of SMEs in border areas.
  • There is a growing number of Chambers of Commerce from border regions taking part in AEBR. Their interest and role in the promotion of SMEs is obvious.

A first exercise to integrate knowledge and other resources from AEBR projects has begun with a first videoconference between these projects, organized on 15 May, focused on public policy instruments affecting SMEs in border regions.

There are:

  • traditional policy instruments available at European (Internal Market ones, COSME, Interreg, other ERDF), but also at national and regional/local levels;
  • those emerging in the last years through the input of EU institutions to promote smarter and greener entrepreneurship; and
  • those new type of instruments to help SMEs recover from the impact of Covid-19, and to be more resilient when facing the phase after-recovery.

The EU is supporting member states to carry on with the necessary measures and, very often, the regional or local level is involved in the delivery of this support. Accurate information (!), coordination, networking, awareness of IT tools, etc., are to play a growing role in the success of businesses, and AEBR wants to support its members in this journey.

Integrating this knowledge in InterVentures might provide better outputs for its partners and potential “audience”: other border (and non-border) regions receiving a structured inspiration to promote the internationalisation of their own SMEs, their effective recovery, and their preparedness for a new environment for business.

For b-solutions it might be a further step in deepening its knowledge about the obstacles faced by SMEs, entrepreneurs and workers when operating across national boundaries.

For IVY it could be one more initiative to involve young Europeans in effective development of most challenged territories, and to know more about entrepreneurship and labour markets.


We will keep on informing in next issues of this Newsletter and in AEBR brand-new website (planned to start at the beginning of June, but already operational for news).


Related news of interest:

The Dutch Province of Overijssel and the CoR haven launched a survey on SME Policies of Local and Regional Authorities (the deadline has been extended to 31 May) to gather examples of good practices of regional ecosystems supporting SMEs across Europe, in the areas of resilience, business transfer policies, regional financial solutions, public procurement practices, and transition to digitalisation and sustainability.

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