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Small and medium-sized enterprises

There are over 20 million small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the EU and they account for 99% of businesses and 2 in 3 private sector jobs. They are a key motor of the economy.

According to EU recommendation 2003/361, two factors determine whether a business is an SME:

  1. the number of employees and
  2. either turnover or balance sheet total.

A medium-sized company has up to 250 employees, a turnover of up to €50 million or a balance sheet total of up to €43 million.

A small-sized company has up to 50 employees & a turnover or balance sheet total of up to €10 million.

A micro-company has up to 10 employees & a turnover or balance sheet total of up to €2 million.

In 2013, the EU adopted the programme for the Competitiveness of Enterprises and small and medium-sized enterprises (COSME) (2014-2020). Its aims are to:

  • help SMEs access funding and markets,
  • support entrepreneurs (training),
  • create more favourable conditions for business creation and growth.

While the EU encourages the use of its SMEs definition as a reference, it is binding only for certain matters, such as state aid, implementing structural funds or EU programmes.