EU would like to see progress in legal and strategic framework for SME development in BiH

A roundtable on establishing a harmonised system of support for small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) development was held on Monday in Sarajevo, as part of the European Union’s support for SME development in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The aim of the roundtable was to inform participants about the current situation regarding small business support in Bosnia and Herzegovina and offer a platform for them to express their views on how a new strategy for SME support can improve the current situation and make the best use of potential EU support.

The event, which gathered Members of the BiH Parliamentary Assembly and representatives of key institutions at the State, Entity and District level, chambers of commerce and academia, was organised by the EU-funded project to support SME policy and institutional capacity in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the BiH Ministry of Foreign Trade and Economic Relations (MoFTER).

Johann Hesse, Head of the Operations Section for Economic Development, Natural Resources and Infrastructure at the EU Delegation, presented the conditions under which the EU provides support for SME Policy. He said that progress had been extremely slow in previous years but that some recent developments have been encouraging, and he urged participants to work together to achieve a harmonised SME support system that is coordinated with EU best practice and that can ensure that Bosnia and Herzegovina continues to be eligible for support from the EU for SME development. In particular, he highlighted the IPA Monitoring Committee meeting which will be held on 1 July 2011, stressing that clear progress needs to be shown by then in order to ensure further EU funding.

Hesse explained that the meeting of the IPA Monitoring Committee will consider the outputs in relation to the new draft SME Law, the BiH SME Council, SME Strategy. Another review of BiH in relation to the EU Small Business Act is also underway. These are major events for BiH. The findings from these reviews will greatly influence access to further EU support and funding. 

„When we are programming and allocating resources, we pay attention to two important aspects,” said Hesse. „Firstly, we take into account the legislative framework, so it’s crucial that BiH legislation in this field is harmonised with EU legislation. Secondly, strategies and development policies must be in accordance with the strategic priorities of the EU.”

Hesse noted that the EU provides grants directly to SMEs, but that the BiH law on SMEs has not yet been adopted. In view of this, he said, „it’s difficult to plan the range of different types of assistance that will become available.”

He said there are four important issues where the EU would like the current Strategy for SME Development, which expires this year. The second concerns the SME Law, which must be enacted. The third regards the location of the SME Agency and how it will be structured, and the fourth concerns the BiH SME Council. „ to see progress. „The first concerns

MoFTER Minister Mladen Zirojević emphasised the need to build an efficient system of support for SMEs and he called on institutions at all levels to cooperate and work together since SMEs in BiH need strong support. He said they also need an effective business infrastructure, including business zones and technology parks.