Relief from EU Consequential Costs for SMEs

The EU Commission has determined that the 20.8 million small to midsize enterprises (SMEs) in the European Union employ two-thirds of the workforce and are responsible for 85 percent of new jobs that are created. Yet EU legislative acts often place a burden on them in particular. On 20 March 2013, the EU Commission took a first step to provide relief for SMEs by lowering fees for chemicals.

José Manuel Barroso, President of the EU Commission, explained: "The commission wants to ensure that the EU regulations are appropriate, helping European companies to grow and create jobs. This is why intelligent lawmaking is taking centre stage in our policies. We want to make life easier for small and midsize enterprises. After all, they are the main driving force behind the European economy."

The Regulatory Fitness and Performance Programme (REFIT) that commenced in December 2012 – with the objective of eliminating unnecessary regulatory burdens – also includes a review of weaknesses that hamper growth. Here a survey of economic associations and over 1,000 companies about regulations that place a burden on SMEs, which was ordered by the EU Commission, returned a list of ten problem areas ranging from VAT regulations to the modernised customs code.

The Directive on the Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH) tops the list. This directive is intended to guarantee high environmental and health protection standards while facilitating the free trade of substances in the single European market. However, affected companies are required to pay fees to the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) for the registration and authorisation of chemical substances.

Now the commission has lowered the fees for SMEs. According to the commission, these companies depending on their size can expect discounts of 35 to 95 percent on the standard registration fees and 25 to 90 percent compared to the previous fees for authorisation applications.

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