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EC officials hold business talks


Minister Richard Bruton

Minister Richard Bruton

PA Archive/Press Association Images

Minister Richard Bruton

European officials will meet Irish politicians to brainstorm how to boost potential for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

Members from the European Parliament and European Commission (EC) will attend the conference in Dublin Castle on Monday for discussions with Jobs Minister Richard Bruton and Social Protection Minister Joan Burton.

Fine Gael TD Damien English, who chairs the committee co-hosting the event, said SMEs have a vital role to play in contributing to economic growth - both domestically and in the European Union (EU).

"If the EU and Ireland are to deliver on the Europe 2020 priorities of smart, sustainable and inclusive growth, competitiveness needs to be centre stage," Mr English said. "At our conference tomorrow, we will hear from leading policymakers who are working to nurture enterprise-friendly environments for SMEs in Ireland and the European Union."

He added that a number of entrepreneurs have also been invited to discuss what they think is required to foster business and innovation in the current challenging economic climate.

The European chiefs, including EU Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion Laszlo Andor, descend for the talks as a new survey revealed that a fifth of Irish companies currently rate their business as poor or very poor.

But the survey, from the Small Firms Association (SFA), also found that business sentiment was up in the first quarter of 2013 compared with last year. Some 40% of Irish company owners expect their business to be good or very good over the next three months.

SFA director Avine McNally said: "While domestic sales remain slow, there are increasing signs of stabilisation and business activity shows positive increases in the coming months."

As well as discussing the future for SMEs, officials on Monday will consider strategies to tackle unemployment - in Ireland and across Europe. The conference will be co-hosted by the Oireachtas Joint Committees on Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, and on Education and Social Protection.

The event is the fifth in a series of eight meetings being hosted by the Houses of the Oireachtas during Ireland's six-month European presidency, which comes to an end at the end of June.

PA Media