Three quarters of European SMEs have been affected last year by restrictions imposed to counter the coronavirus pandemic, according to a recent study by SME Europe, the economic organization of the European People’s Party (EPP).
“Last year, the European SME sector has been hit hard. Despite aid programs in all Member States, 7.5% of SMEs were forced to close and 68.5% have suspended their activity for various periods of time since March 2020”, said MEP Iuliu Winkler (EPP/RMDSZ), First Vice-President of SME Europe, on Tuesday, as the results of the study have been made public. The MEP highlighted an even more worrisome trend; according to the results presented by SME Europe, 56% of European SMEs claim that they will survive at most another six months, if this year the situation will be similar to that of 2020. Merely 18% of SMEs say they have the resources to remain operational for another year. “The SME sector accounts for 99% of European Union businesses, providing two thirds of private sector jobs and contributing more than half of the total added value created by EU businesses. In these circumstances, the fact that less than 25% of small European companies are confident that they can cope with the measures taken to combat the pandemic must be an alarm signal for both Member States and the European Commission”, stressed Winkler.
According to the First Vice-President of SME Europe, the SME sector recognises the important role played by state aid in this time of crisis, but 61.9% of participating companies said that assistance programs are difficult to access. “The SME Europe study shows us that the SME sector needs three urgent interventions: financing and support services for digitalisation and e-commerce development; guidance to business-planning and -development; de-bureaucratising and simplifying access to financial assistance programs in times of crisis”, concluded Winkler.
This is the second study conducted by SME Europe since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. The first was carried out in April last year, and its results were announced in May 2020, with SME Europe also developing a series of recommendations to support the SME sector in this time of crisis. The results of this year’s study and the conclusions that emerged from it can be accessed here: www.smeeurope.eu.