The European Commission states that Europe’s economic growth and jobs depend on its ability to support the growth of enterprises. In particular, entrepreneurship creates new companies, opens up new markets, and nurtures new skills. The most important sources of employment in the EU are small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). The Commission’s objective is to encourage people to become entrepreneurs and also to make it easier for them to set up and grow their businesses. The Commission aims to encourage more people to set up their own business. Certain groups, such as female entrepreneurs, family businesses, liberal professions, migrants, seniors or social economy enterprises are particularly targeted.
Entrepreneurship features in the Europe 2020 strategy as one of the tools for jobs and growth, within the context of deepening the single market. Here it is acknowledged that work needs to be done to improve access to the single market for small businesses and to develop entrepreneurship by simplifying company law and allowing entrepreneurs to restart after failed businesses.
The Commission’s current main initiatives to promote entrepreneurship are summarised in an Entrepreneurship Action Plan, adopted in January 2013. They focus on the following areas:
- educating young people about entrepreneurship
- highlighting opportunities for women and other groups;
- easing administrative requirements;
- making it easier to attract investors.
The Commission’s Action Plan concludes that in order to reinvigorate Europe's entrepreneurs after the recent economic crisis, and accelerate its entrepreneurial activity, the Commission and Member States must work simultaneously on restoring confidence, creating the best possible environment for entrepreneurs by putting them at the heart of business policy and practice, and revolutionising the culture of entrepreneurship.
Concrete support for entrepreneurs provided by the Commission includes the following programmes and initiatives:
- Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs: this is a cross-border programme facilitating the exchange of entrepreneurial and management experience. The exchange sees a newly established or potential entrepreneur make a one- to six-month visit to an experienced entrepreneur running an SME in another country. In the past five years, more than 2 500 pairs of entrepreneurs have benefited from the programme.
- Entrepreneurship education: the Commission aims to promote entrepreneurship education and stress its importance at all levels from primary school to university and beyond.
- Support networks: the Commission provides support and information to entrepreneurs and SMEs through: 1) the Your Europe Business Portal, which is a practical guide to doing business in Europe. It provides entrepreneurs with information and interactive services that help them expand their business abroad; 2) the Enterprise Europe Network, which helps SMEs and entrepreneurs access market information, overcome legal obstacles, and find potential business partners across Europe; 3) the SME Internationalisation Portal, which provides information on foreign markets and helps European business internationalise their activities; 4) the single portal on Access to Finance, which helps SMEs find finance supported by the EU.