The second day of the Informal Meeting of Ministers for Competitiveness at Brdo pri Kranju was devoted to discussions on small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and sustainable industrial policy. Ministers agreed that the dynamic energy and flexibility of small and medium-sized enterprises are key forces driving economic growth and improving competitiveness. The Slovenian Economy Minister Andrej Vizjak, chairing the informal meeting, among other things commented, “A change is needed in the European Union. The Slovenian Presidency firmly believes that we should forge ahead and do more not only to increase the number of enterprises but also to enhance their quality and growth.”
The EU and EFTA Member State Ministers agreed that there are not enough growing and innovative enterprises in Europe, the main reasons being the high risks, difficulties in retaining exclusive rights to use innovations and lack of access to finance. According to Mr Vizjak, “These are problems the European Union will address with the Small Business Act.”
The Ministers for competitiveness devoted the afternoon session to sustainable industrial policy. At the press conference after the meeting, Slovenian Economy Minister Andrej Vizjak stressed that care for the environment is not just a responsibility but also an opportunity for the European economy. “With today’s discussions we contributed significantly towards shaping the Action Plans on Sustainable Industrial Policy and on Sustainable Consumption and Production which will be issued by the Commission in mid-May,” he said. The Action Plans are aimed at encouraging consumers to buy environment-friendly products, at identifying obstacles to the development of political initiatives for environmental industry, and at shaping sectoral approaches or agreements that contribute to a low-carbon, sustainable economy.
The informal meeting was also an opportunity for Ministers to hear presentations and views from entrepreneurs and experts who are confronted with the beneficial and adverse effects of policy on a daily basis. The Presidency invited Mr Arnaldo Abruzzini, Secretary General of the Association of European Chambers of Commerce and Industry (Eurochambers), to introduce the topic of small and medium-sized enterprises. A practical point of view was presented by Mr Ivo Boscarol, innovator, entrepreneur and the owner of Pipistrel, one of the most promising Slovenian small enterprises, which constructs ultralight aircraft.
Mr Žiga Turk, Slovenian Minister without Portfolio responsible for development, was invited as the first speaker on the second topic. His speech was also followed by a practical presentation of experience from a successful Slovenian entrepreneur, Mr Janez Škrabec of the Riko company, engaged, among other activities, in eco-construction – building wooden houses.