ΥΠ.ΠΡΟ.ΠΟ
Πολυμέσα
Opening speech by Mr Christos Papoutsis, European Commissioner for SMES Forum on the Τransfer of Βusinesses
 
 

 


Lille, 3-4 February 1997


Main points:

(...) "One of our priorities set by the new Multiannual Programme for SMEs is the simplifying and improvement of the administrative and regulatory business environment. And, I would like to point out that the multiannual programme calls for particular attention for the transfer of business." (...) 0

(...) "It is a fact that about a third of the entrepreneurs, owners of small-medium enterprises in several European countries, are over 50 years old. Many entrepreneurs are therefore already facing, or will shortly have to face, the issue of transferring their businesses." (...)

(...) "About 1.5 million SMEs in Europe risk closure by the year 2000, if their transfer fails. And some 6.3 million jobs could be at risk, if every effort is not made to ensure successful business transfers from one generation to the next." (...)

(...) "It clearly makes no economic sense to let obstacles of any kind, including legal and taxation ones, stand in the way of successful transfers." (...)

(...) "The first objective should be to raise awareness of the need for entrepreneurs to prepare the transfer of their business in good time. The lack of timely preparation is perhaps the main reason why transfers go wrong." (...)

(...) "The second objective is to develop and assess best practice. It is very useful to find out what others have done to facilitate business transfers, and to see whether similar measures can be implemented in other Member States." (...)

(...) "The Commission is determined to make every effort to assist in facilitating the transfer of businesses and ensuring their survival. The Council of Ministers has shown similar determination in the recent decision on the third multiannual programme for SMEs. Promotion of actions on transfer of businesses by dissemination of best practice is one of the points of the new multiannual Programme." (...)

(...) "I would like to stress that coordinated efforts are essential for achieving success at both Member States and European Union level. For this reason and I call on you all to respond to the challenge of improving the environment for the transmission of enterprises." (...)

(...) "In this way we will be able to strengthen competition and contribute to the creation of employment. We should not forget that unless we can reduce unemployment considerably in the European Union, we will be underperforming politically, economically and socially.' (...)

Full Text:

Presidents,

Ministers,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am very pleased today to be here with you, at this important event. The challenge of transmission is important for the future of European enterprises. And this meeting is a chance to promote our ideas and proposals on this issue.

I would like to welcome all of you to this European Forum on the transfer of businesses from one generation to the next. The forum has been organised by the European Commission, together with the "Conseil National du Commerce" and Yes for Europe.

I am also very pleased to welcome Mr. Farnleitner, the Austrian Minister for Economic Affairs and Mr. Kolb, the German State Secretary for SME policy. Tomorrow afternoon we shall be joined by Mr. Raffarin, the French Minister responsible for SMEs and Handicrafts.

I would also like to thank our hosts, "La Maison des Professions", as well as the other sponsors; the "Direction du Commerce Intιrieur", the "Chambre Rιgionale de Commerce et d'Industrie Nord-Pas de Calais", the "Conseil Gιnιral Dιpartement du Nord", the "Caisse des Dιpτts" et "Consignations and the "Banque Paribas".

I believe that there is increasing awareness, in both Member States and the Community as a whole, of the need for European business to be more competitive. Because only in this way can they generate economic growth, create jobs and adapt to the changing business environment.

The Commission has the role of providing the framework for the European enterprise. This applies to competition law, and common product standards, as well as to similar legislation appropriate for Community law. But it is also relevant to the creation of a positive environment for the development of enterprises.

One of our priorities set by the new Multiannual Programme for SMEs is the simplifying and improvement of the administrative and regulatory business environment. And, I would like to point out that the multiannual programme calls for particular attention for the transfer of business.

The subject of our forum is in line with this framework, and is of particular importance for employment generation in Europe. Our number one priority today.

It is a fact that about a third of the entrepreneurs, owners of small-medium enterprises in several European countries, are over 50 years old. Many entrepreneurs are therefore already facing, or will shortly have to face, the issue of transferring their businesses.

The European Observatory for SMEs has recently estimated that about 1.5 million SMEs in Europe risk closure by the year 2000, if their transfer fails. And some 6.3 million jobs could be at risk, if every effort is not made to ensure successful business transfers from one generation to the next.

The rate of SME failure is therefore a worrying factor as regards the maintenance and growth of employment across the European Union.

It clearly makes no economic sense to let obstacles of any kind, including legal and taxation ones, stand in the way of successful transfers. The European Commission recognized the problem early enough, and issued its Recommendation on the subject in December 1994, following widespread consultation.

I think it is fair to say that the Recommendation identified the most important problems inhibiting successful transfers. It set out a range of practicable solutions based on exchange of best practice in the Member States.

It is now time to evaluate what has been achieved in the last two years for improving the business environment in this field. We need to take stock of where we are, and what still needs to be done. We also need to be aware of any new problems which may be emerging.

The measures taken so far by Member States, in line with the Recommendation, have been summarised in a Progress Report. I believe that copies of this report have been made available. This report has been prepared in four workshops, with experts focusing on the different aspects of the Recommendation.

The overall picture shows that there has been some progress in certain areas. This is particularly so in the field of inheritance and gift taxes. Progress also has been made in the procedures for changing the legal structure of a business on transfer, for example into a public limited company.

In some Member States, high priority has been given to information campaigns on the need for entrepreneurs to make early preparations for transfer, and to bring together prospective buyers and sellers. However, very little has been done in other fields, such as in the removal of tax and financial barriers to the transfer of the business to employees.

Of course any action to change civil, company and tax law is a matter for the Member States. But everyone concerned has a role to play, not least in raising awareness of the issues.

That is why we have invited all of you, and why this Forum will benefit greatly from all of your points of view.

We are interested in your experience and suggestions.

The experience of entrepreneurs, representatives of business organisations, and specialists from banks, law, tax and business consultants.

We are also interested in the views of politicians and administrators from Member States and the European institutions.

I would like to say briefly what I see as being the main aims of this Forum, and what results I would like us to achieve.

The first objective should be to raise awareness of the need for entrepreneurs to prepare the transfer of their business in good time. The lack of timely preparation is perhaps the main reason why transfers go wrong. For this reason the Commission's Recommendation was that Member States should encourage actions to make business owners aware of the problems of transferring their business, providing both information and training.

This Forum is part of the process of getting the message across. Failing to make early preparation for the transfer of your business can have disastrous consequences for the business. It is equally important to inform and advise the entrepreneurs who are thinking of taking over a business.

I would ask all of you to elaborate the results of this Forum and inform the widest possible audience of this message. The Commission, for its part, will prepare a report on the proceedings of this Forum which will then be widely disseminated.

The second objective is to develop and assess best practice. It is very useful to find out what others have done to facilitate business transfers, and to see whether similar measures can be implemented in other Member States.

Later on this morning we will hear from entrepreneurs of their experience in transferring their businesses. Both success stories, and examples of what can go wrong.

We also have feedback from a study based on a questionnaire sent to entrepreneurs, which identifies the experiences of both buyers and sellers.

Again the Commission will make sure that the examples of best practice identified in this Forum, and the case studies of actual transfers, will be disseminated in its report on the proceedings.

The third objective is to agree on conclusions or Recommendations for action in particular problem areas. That is the aim of the workshops which will take place today and tomorrow. They should help to identify the problems which are of greatest concern, and specify where action is needed as a matter of priority. I look forward to seeing those conclusions. They could form the basis of concrete proposals to the Council of Ministers.

On taxation, specific problems relating to business transfer could be discussed in the new permanent Taxation Policy Group, set up by the Commission with representation from Member States.

The tax environment of SMEs has been put down as one of the items for discussion by this high level policy group.

Finally, the Commission is determined to make every effort to assist in facilitating the transfer of businesses and ensuring their survival. The Council of Ministers has shown similar determination in the recent decision on the third multiannual programme for SMEs. Promotion of actions on transfer of businesses by dissemination of best practice is one of the points of the new multiannual Programme.

In conclusion, I would like to stress that coordinated efforts are essential for achieving success at both Member States and European Union level. For this reason and I call on you all to respond to the challenge of improving the environment for the transmission of enterprises.

In this way we will be able to strengthen competition and contribute to the creation of employment. We should not forget that unless we can reduce unemployment considerably in the European Union, we will be underperforming politically, economically and socially.

Thank you very much for your attention. I wish you every success, and look forward to a fruitful outcome for this Forum.




SPEECH/97/28
 

 

 
Ημ. Έκδοσης:03/02/1997 Share Εκτύπωση
| | |