EU assistance for SMEs and protection for workers


THE EUROPEAN Commission has announced a series of measures to promote international activities by European SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises).

In particular, the commission will carry out new projects to support clusters of SMEs in clean technologies, renewable energy, biotechnology and sports goods. The new projects involve 20 organisations in several European countries (Ireland included).

The commission has highlighted the successful role of the China Intellectual Property Rights SME Helpdesk and the Enterprise Europe Network in supporting SMEs. The Helpdesk assists SMEs to enter the Chinese market securely, for example by offering confidential advice and interactive training. The Enterprise Europe Network helps SMEs to make the most of the European marketplace working through local business organisations in 51 countries.

Under recently adopted legislation, EU member states are permitted to ease the administrative burden on micro-enterprises and exempt them from the requirement to publish annual accounts.

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) has made it more difficult for defendants to escape judgment in civil cases. In G v de Visser (C-292/10), the Dutch owner of a website was sued for infringing the applicant’s right to protection of personality by posting partially naked pictures of her without her consent.

The ECJ held first that difficulties in locating the defendant in the Netherlands did not prevent the applicant suing in Germany and second, that even when documents are served by public notice, the courts may enter judgment against a defendant who fails to appear.

In employment law, the commission will shortly announce its new jobs package. This package is aimed at identifying how EU funds can be used to make long-term investments in human capital.

Proposed new rules also aim to protect posted workers, that is, employees sent to work in another member state for limited periods. A new draft regulation will ensure that the freedom to provide services does not prevail over the right to strike and will put in place a new alert mechanism for industrial conflicts in cross- border situations with severe implications.

The commission has also published a communication on external dimension on social security co-ordination in which it expresses its concerns about workers moving in and out of the EU. The ECJ recently held that employees moving from fixed-term to permanent contracts cannot have less favourable conditions if their duties remain the same.

On March 28th, the European Parliament, council and commission reached a preliminary deal on new EU roaming rules for mobile phones. If the text is adopted, calling and texting while travelling in the EU will be cheaper from July 1st.

For the first time, maximum retail data prices will also be fixed. These regulated price caps will reduce until July 2014, when users will have the option of a separate mobile contract for roaming, which may be different from their domestic mobile provider.

Finally, as part of its strategy to promote e-commerce, the commission has signalled its intention to establish a European cybercrime centre within the European Police Agency (Europol) at The Hague. It is expected to have 55 full-time employees and an annual budget of €3.6 billion.