Small and medium-sized enterprises, with up to 249 employees, are considered to be the engine of the European Union (EU) economy, creating jobs and supporting economic growth. However, according to new Eurostat data, they also make a significant contribution to trade within the Union. About 98% of companies selling goods within the EU in 2015 were small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), and about 70% of them were micro-enterprises. Moreover, small and medium-sized enterprises bear half of the value of intra-EU trade in goods. They account for 51% of intra-EU imports and 45% of exports in 2015.
In five Member States, SMEs generate over two thirds of the total value of goods exports within the EU. First, Cyprus is 88%, followed by Latvia (81%), Belgium (70%), Estonia (68%) and the Netherlands (67%). At the other end of the ranking, France (21%), Germany (26%), Slovakia (30%) and Ireland (32%) are the countries where SMEs account for less than one third of the value of domestic EU exports.
Of all SME sizes, the microenterprises are the most responsible for exports to the EU in six countries: Belgium (46% of total EU exports), Malta (37% in 2013), Hungary (26%), Hungary (23%), Romania and Sweden (19%). At the same time, in 10 countries their export value is below 10% of the total, including France, Germany and Finland by about 4%.
In most Member States, at least half of the value of EU imports comes from small and medium-sized enterprises. They are responsible for over three quarters of the total value in Latvia (85%), Cyprus (82%), Estonia (79%), Lithuania (78%) and Malta (77% in 2013). Only in France (31%), Germany (34%), Czech Republic (47%), Slovakia (48%) and Poland (49%), the value of SMEs is less than 50% of total imports. The percentage in Bulgaria is also quite high – 68.8%.
Here too, the microenterprises are responsible for the largest share of intra-Union imports in five Member States – Malta (45% of the value in 2013), Belgium (38%), Sweden (25%), Hungary (23% United Kingdom (21%). In contrast, the five countries where these companies make up 10% of the total are France, Germany and the Czech Republic (around 7%), Italy (9%) and Poland (10%).
As for Bulgaria, the trends are similar to those of exports. Micro-enterprises make the lowest value of total imports within the EU – only 15.7%. Small businesses are second with 23.3%, and the second largest are the largest companies with 29.8%.