European leaders to gather for Athlone business conference

More than 60 locally and regionally elected representatives from the EU's 27 member states will gather in Athlone next week to discuss the challenges facing small and medium sized enterprises.

The ‘Supporting our SMEs – overcoming barriers to their development’ conference will be officially opened by Taoiseach Brian Cowen on September 29.

The Committee of the Regions (CoR) is hosting a major conference

The conference, co-hosted by the Committee of the Regions (CoR), the Association of Irish Regions and the Irish Border Midland and Western Regional Assembly, has been organised at the initiative of Cllr Constance Hanniffy, president of the CoR's Economic and Social Policy Committee.

Conference speakers will include European Commission vice president, Günther Verheugen, responsible for Enterprise and Industry; Frank Ryan, CEO of Enterprise Ireland and minister Hervé Novelli, secretary of state for trade, craft, small business, tourism and services, representing the French presidency of the EU.

Delegates will discuss the contributions that SMEs make to the EU economy and the impact of the Small Business Act for Europe.

“When we talk about SMEs, we are focusing on companies with a maximum of 250 employees and a turnover of not more than €50m,” said Cllr Hanniffy.

“They account for 99% of companies, 70% of employment and 45% of GDP in the EU. Over the past two years, they have generated 80% of new EU jobs. They are the engine of our economy.

“This is why all levels of government, at the national, regional and local levels have to support SMEs success and reduce their administrative burdens wherever possible.”

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