Brussels, 28 November 2013
VP Tajani in Lisbon: Forming new business partnerships can help Portuguese SMEs recover
Portugal was among the European countries worst hit by the economic crisis, but it has recently started to show signs of recovery. To help Portuguese SMEs emerge from the downturn and help kick-start the Portuguese economy, the European Commission Vice President Antonio Tajani i is traveling to Lisbon today with Daniel Calleja Crespo, Director-General of DG Enterprise and SME Envoy. They will be accompanied by representatives of about 150 European companies, who will participate in more than 1800 bilateral meetings with Portuguese SMEs to form new partnerships and discuss opportunities for collaboration in key sectors of the Portuguese economy such as tourism, agriculture and the economy of the sea.
Strategy for growth
An important part of this visit will be the Europe 2020 strategy for growth conference which the Vice President will open together with the Portuguese Vice Prime Minister, Paulo Portas. Issues discussed will include internationalisation of SMEs, key enabling technologies as well as access to finance which continues to be one of the main obstacles to growth in many southern European countries. The Vice President will use this opportunity to introduce COSME, a new € 2.3 billion program for SMEs which aims to address the main challenges they are currently facing, such as access to financing, access to foreign markets, improvement of the business environment and support to entrepreneurs. Among other things, this program will help EU enterprises, including the ones in Portugal, deal with the current credit crunch by enabling them to receive more than 22 billion euros in secured loans over the next seven years ( IP/13/1135 ).
Central to this visit, hosted by the Portuguese Trade & Investment Agency “AICEP Portugal Global”, will be the business to business networking event which will take place on November 29 th. The aim of the event is to promote business partnerships between Portuguese and other EU companies, but also with other non-European countries in sectors identified as key contributors to achieving growth in Portugal, including:
-Economy of the sea (i.e.: offshore activities such as wind, wave and tidal power, as well as cruising, nautical tourism and the naval industry)
-Pharmaceuticals and biotechnology;
-Automotive and aeronautical components;
-Information and communication technologies;
-Agriculture and food;
-Petrochemical and chemical Industry
During the visit, the Vice-President will also meet with the President of Portugal Aníbal Cavaco Silva, as well as two other Portuguese ministers: the Minister of State and Foreign Affairs Rui Machete and the Minister of Economy António Pires de Lima.
From the depths of the recession to the first signs of recovery
The economic crisis has plunged Portugal into a deep and prolonged recession between 2008 and 2013, with both large and small companies experiencing decline across the board. The crisis has hit the smaller enterprises especially hard: those employing up to 10 people which represent 94% of the total number of companies and employ 40% of the employees in the private sector.
Favourable business environment
The forecast for the future, however, leaves room for cautious optimism. There has been good progress in the field of administrative simplification, as well as in reducing the costs of legislation for SMEs. The recent SME performance review for Portugal ( MEMO/13/1045 ), which evaluates how Portugal has been implementing the principles of the Small Business Act, shows that the country has produced encouraging results.
The reforms implemented by Portugal are expected to halt the negative trends of recent years and start resulting in positive effects on growth and employment. Modest growth is predicted for 2014 , but a full recovery to pre-crisis levels is not yet within sight.
Portugal has recently also passed the troika (EU, ECB, IMF) test of its compliance with the terms of its bailout and has qualified for another 5.6 billion euro in further funding from its creditors. The employment forecast for 2014 has also improved - the predicted unemployment rate is now 17.7 % instead of 18.5% as initially estimated. However, much work remains to be done.
A country brimming with innovation potential
In addition to making improvements in the business environment for SMEs, Portugal is a country of great innovation and research potential. For example:
-It ranks on top within the EU countries in the number of PhDs per 1,000 inhabitants. Furthermore, 40 % of students in tertiary education are enrolled in engineering, sciences and healthcare.
-Portugal hosts several recently created world-class R&D institutions in highly innovative fields such as of nanotechnology, biotechnology and biomedicine.
Against this background, the Vice President will also use this visit to point out funding opportunities which will come out of the new Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme. For example, a new "SME Instrument" (with the help of the Enterprise Europe Network) will support innovative SMEs, during an entire innovation cycle: from the conception of the innovative idea, to the final creation of the new product or service. Enterprises will then have the responsibility to commercialize their innovations using existing mechanisms of access to finance.
On November 29 th, Vice-President Tajani will also open the European Space Expo in Lisbon . The aim of the Expo is to show citizens how European space policy and space-based technologies benefit our everyday lives as well as their importance for the European economy and job creation. Over 300 000 European citizens have now visited the European Space Expo, as it continues its tour of major European cities.