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Speech by Commissioner Christos Papoutsis, Inauguration Ceremony Europartenariat Italia 1996
 
 


Genova, 27 November 1996
 

Ministers,
Presidents,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

It gives me great pleasure to inaugurate today here in Genoa the fifteenth Europartenariat. The Europartenariat Italia. And I would like to extend a warm welcome to all participants of this Europartenariat event.

Genoa has always been an important gateway. First and foremost to the sea, to far horizons and new markets. Christopher Columbus was born here, and sailed from Europe to find the new world.

As I learned, from the Europartenariat promotion campaign in Italy, the well-known "blue jeans" were invented in Genoa, and went on to conquer the same new world and rapidly spread throughout the rest of the world.

Genoa has a long maritime tradition, related to its geographical location and its important role in history, going back to the time when it was an independent Maritime Republic in the 13th and 14th centuries.

Thanks to the diplomatic and entrepreneurial flair of the Genoans, the city controlled trade throughout the entire Mediterranean. Today, the economic situation in Genoa has changed, but its international orientation still plays an important role in the economy of the region.

This international outlook of the city and its inventiveness explains why Genoa is the perfect place to host a Europartenariat. An event where entrepreneurs from all over the world can look for promising business opportunities.

A few decades ago Genoa was a city of shipyards and steel. Due to the world- wide decline in these sectors, both lost their dominant positions in the Ligurian economy. Employment in these industries has declined continually, and the region has had to look for a new core for its economic activities.

Small and medium-sized enterprises from different sectors are now forming the backbone of Genoa's economic structure. And the Italian and Ligurian authorities offer their small and medium-sized enterprises special support to facilitate their role as the engine of the economy.

It is against this background that Genoa was proposed as host for this Europartenariat, in order to support the further internationalisation of Italian SMEs.

The European Commission accepted the application for an event that brings together small and medium-sized enterprises from areas in Central and Northern Italy, eligible for support under the regional policy of the European Union.

Previous Europartenariats have shown how successful events like this can be. Many SMEs have developed international partnerships as a result; identifying new suppliers, creating new distribution networks, gaining access to new technologies, and so on.

SMEs are the new economic engine of Europe. And it is now widely recognised that SMEs play a growing and decisive role in the development of employment and in the economic and social stability of our regions.

In their efforts to reduce unemployment, Member States have emphasized repeatedly the importance of SMEs in job-creation. And they have asked the European Commission to increase its efforts to help optimise the contribution of SMEs to growth and employment generation.

The challenge for us was how best to deploy our competences at European level in order to strengthen SMEs.

Clearly, the administrative environment had to be simplified in order to release the energy and dynamism of businesses. These energies should be devoted to the core activity of the enterprise rather than being tied up in bureaucratic red tape.

Furthermore, the support measures in favour of SMEs have to be made to work more efficiently to maximise their impact. These measures have to be coordinated, coherent and transparent. In addition, these measures have to be fully accessible to the enterprises they are intended to assist.

Two weeks ago, the Industry Council decided in favour of the Multiunnaul Programme for SMEs. It approved both the content and the budget for the next four years (127 MECUs). Moreover, it approved a resolution based on the Integrated Programme in favour of SMEs and the crafts sector.

The main element in this resolution is the reinforcement of coordination between the Member-States and in particular within the Commission. The aim is to better coordinate the different policies and actions benefiting SMEs, with special attention being paid to the very small enterprises and the craft sector.

I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge the support that the Italian Government has given to the programmes proposal during the discussions in the Council.

It is vital that the Member States and the European Union reinforce and coordinate their SMEs policies. The Commission is promoting the exchange of information between Member States by organising "Concerted actions" with a view to identify "Best Practices", that can be spread throughout the Union.

The European Commission will play a vital role ensuring that SME growth is maximised, while fully respecting the principle of subsidiarity.

The new multiannual programme will form the legal and budgetary basis for specific SME policy actions in the period 1997-2000. It provides for concrete actions that will help to exploit SMEs' full potential for job creation. It is focused on all kinds of SMEs, irrespective of their sector, legal form or location.

Among the priorities addressed in the Multiannual Programme is the role of SMEs in commerce and distribution. And I am pleased to announce that last week the Commission approved my proposal for the "Green Paper on Commerce and Distribution."

This Green Paper underlines the importance of the Commerce and Distribution sectors, the second largest area of economic activity within the Union. It examines the challenges facing the different sectors, and sets an agenda for exploring the possible options for future actions. The Green Paper underlines the leading role that Commerce is playing in implementing the internal market programme, extending from trans-frontier trading to the internationalisation of its activities. We should not forget that commerce makes an important contribution to social cohesion, particularly in rural areas.

I would also like to highlight the role that SMEs play with regard to promoting cohesion within the European Union. By becoming more active across frontiers, SMEs greatly advance the convergence of national economies. They also help reduce regional disparities in an integrated European economy.

Thus, alongside other Community instruments (such as the Structural Funds in regional policy or the Trans-European networks), enterprise policy becomes an important tool for the further achievement of cohesion objectives. In this, SMEs play a growing and determining role for employment and the social stability of our regions.

Talking about cohesion and convergence of national economies within the European Union, it is clear that this is also a basic requirement for the transition to the Single Currency.

Economic and Monetary Union will have positive effects on businesses. For SMEs, this requires careful preparation. In this regard the network of the Euro Info Centres will play a key role in disseminating relevant information to the SMEs.
The Commission, working together with the European Parliament, has recently launched a special information campaign on "EURO: One Currency for Europe".

In this campaign special attention is paid to the requirements of SMEs, for their smoother transition to the single currency.

Of course, the role of Commerce is essential, for it will have to familiarise the consumers with the EURO and assist them in coping with a new and unfamiliar price structure.

One of the main objectives of our enterprise policy is the need to strengthen the ability of SMEs to Europeanise and internationalise.

But let me emphasize the prominent role that enterprise policy provides for the promotion of better access of businesses to the benefits of the Single Market and to other international opportunities.

Today, European enterprises are facing new challenges as a result of market globalisation, drastic technological changes and the need to improve their competitiveness.

These trends towards the globalisation of markets are accompanied and reinforced by parallel moves to deregulate financial markets, to liberalise trade in the implementation of the Uruguay round. Companies themselves move in this direction through much faster product innovation and the spreading of new ways of organising production.

Today, the rapidly changing technological environment, including the move towards the Information Society, enables SMEs to access markets, that only large corporations could previously reach.

Although the need for and benefits from internationalisation are clear, SMEs often cannot spare the management time to study the new market opportunities, and overcome the administrative and cultural barriers that may arise.

In this context, the Commission has developed expertise and methodologies in a number of areas, which can crucially assist the process of internationalisation. This expertise covers the different requirements for internationalisation of enterprises. In particular the supply of information and the development of partnership and cooperation mechanisms.

Finding cooperation partners in other areas of the Community is one way to benefit from the Single European Market. In addition, cooperation with SMEs from outside the European Union may add to the competitiveness of European SMEs.

Helping entrepreneurs in their trans-border border cooperation activities is a primary objective of the programmes and instruments for partner search, which my Services have developed.

Europartenariat and INTERPRISE events, the business co-operation networks BC-Net and BRE and Euro Info Centres are well-established instruments. Instruments that allow businessmen and women to identify and contact possible cooperation partners in other countries, and get information on international market places.

In this context we should be clear about the limits of our role. We, the Commission, cannot and should not try to do business for enterprises. We cannot and should not try to fix cooperation or joint venture relationships. That is up to the individual businesses.

But we can provide the necessary organisational infrastructure, the necessary background information and advice, in order to get the process started.

This is the main reason why an event such as Europartenariat Italia is taking place. It is a platform for first business contacts, which could result in cooperation, and where assistance to get into foreign markets is offered.

The Europartenariat Italia, I am sure, will demonstrate how effective such events can be. Tomorrow and the day after, about 2000 companies from more than 70 countries, including quite a few micro enterprises, will meet face- to-face. They will leave the chance to discuss the full range of possible commercial, financial and technical cooperation.
For the excellent preparation of this event, I would like to thank the organisers, Mondimpresa, and all the others who made this event possible : The Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Genoa, the region of Liguria, all involved Italian regions and ministries. And in particular, I would like to thank Mr Cauvin, the President of the Steering Committee.

I would also like to welcome the representatives of all the companies from the European Union, Central and Eastern Europe, the Mediterranean area, the United States, the Community of Independent States, and Asia and Latin America.

I would like to welcome all of you who will meet here to explore new cooperation partnerships.

I am convinced that the approach of direct contacts between entrepreneurs will bring about many fruitful cooperation agreements and other business arrangements.

I would like therefore to wish all the enterprises participating in this Europartenariat event good luck. I hope that your hopes find a fulfilment in solid and permanent cooperation, either with European or non-European partners.

I am also happy to take this opportunity to remind you that the next Partenariat event is taking place in Greece, Pireaus, from 23 to 24 June 1997. I hope to see you there next year with further ideas for cooperation.

Good luck in your negotiations! Thank you!


SPEECH/96/305
 

 

 
Ημ. Έκδοσης:27/11/1996 Share Εκτύπωση
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