Investing to meet the challenges ahead

Commentary by Othmar Karas MEP, Member, Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee, EPP. SME Intergroup’s Chair

Othmar Karas MEP The past year has brought about a series of challenges for financial markets legislation. In the US, developments such as the two executive orders on financial services or the letters to Federal Chair Janet Yellen with calls for deregulation may put into question the steady implementation of global regulatory standards.

On our side of the Atlantic, Brexit is putting uncertainty on the table. Around 33,000 rules are to be negotiated, many of which concern the financial industry. In addition, the pace of digitisation is picking up, rapidly producing opportunities and threats.

I strongly believe that our answer to uncertainty, transformation, populism or nationalism must not be to escape into protectionism or isolation. Regardless of some political dynamics, the EU must continue to thoroughly draw the lessons from the financial crisis and become more independent, determined and effective.

Against this background, I very much welcome the ongoing initiative by LSEG to highlight Europe’s potential by collecting success stories of striving SMEs. I see this exercise also as a call to decision-makers to continue efforts for more suitable regulatory frameworks, so these businesses can accomplish their visions and contribute to growth and jobs.

Since last year’s publication of 1000 Companies to Inspire Europe, we have been on a good track. Besides initiatives on reducing regulatory burden, progress was made on the project of creating a Capital Markets Union as a financing union for our economy. In 20 months, two-thirds of the 33 initiatives were implemented and the Commission has already put forward further steps. Just recently, we achieved agreements on reforming securitisations and venture capital funds to facilitate access to finance for SMEs.

Another important initiative to enhance the flow of capital within the Single Market and to close Europe’s investment gap is the European Fund for Strategic Investments. Since its launch two years ago, it has already mobilised over €194bn worth of investments across all member states, supporting 425,000 SMEs. Therefore, I welcome its ongoing extension, expansion and reinforcement.

“The error of the past is the wisdom and success of the future,” songwriter Dale Turner once said. These words guide us to help address new challenges and continue our work on deepening the Economic and Monetary Union. When we manage to effectively draw from the recent crisis to overcome national barriers and fragmentation of capital markets, I am confident there will be plenty of stories to add to future editions of 1000 Companies to Inspire Europe.