In these difficult economic times, small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and micro-businesses have felt the impact disproportionately. Many cannot gain access to vital loans from banks that they need to keep afloat.
A report published this week by the Federation of Small Businesses warns that four-in-10 small businesses are being turned down for bank loans. With this very much in mind, I was pleased to see proposals being brought forward from the EU which involve a series of new initiatives and planned actions to improve access to SMEs to finance.
The EU has published a practical guide, providing information on how to access more than £40bn of public finance in the 27 member states - in addition to launching a European-wide training campaign to help SMEs gain access to finance.
I have always supported SMEs and their interests through my role in the European Parliament - particularly with regard to access for funding.
I speak out of the need for future funding programmes, including research and innovation, to take into account the specific structure of SMEs in Northern Ireland and to simplify the rules so access to funding and finance can be obtained quickly.
I would encourage all Northern Ireland SMEs to explore these options.
JIM NICHOLSON MEP