De Jong draws up balance of five years’ work during visit to small businesses in horticulture

28 April 2014

De Jong draws up balance of five years’ work during visit to small businesses in horticulture

On 23rd April SP Euro-MP Dennis de Jong paid a visit to the members’ meeting of the Dutch association of interior landscapers in the village of De Lier to discuss the European elections and their relevance to small and medium-sized enterprises. ‘Five years ago I picked up a shopping list of things that the Dutch body representing small businesses and organisations representing each sector wanted to see,’ said De Jong. ‘That list has guided my activities in the European Parliament and today I will be happy to draw up a balance, and hope I will once again be given a new wishlist. Small businesses are not paid much attention in Brussels, certainly in cases where their interests are other than those of corporations.‘ The small business people in attendance were impressed by the results achieved and with how seriously the SP was taking the fulfilment of concrete promises. ‘It’s fantastic that the president of the body representing small- and medium-sized businesses, Michaël van Straalen of MKB-NL, has called the SP the most small business-minded party in the Netherlands,’ De Jong added. ‘That brings obligations with it, however. During the next five years I want to prove once again that the SP isn’t just paying lip service to small businesses, but works at representing their interests.’

Michael van Straalen

The businesspeople present confirmed that for them it is concrete results which count. De Jong noted that he had managed to have incorporated into new European legislation an obligation not only for official bodies to settle bills within thirty days, but for bills from one business to another to be paid within sixty days. For small firms finance is always a major problem, which means that late payment represents an enormous drain on their working capital. The business people emphasised in addition the importance of what has been done – as a result of a report by De Jong – to counter the problem of fraudulent bills, of which small firms are often the victims. Better exchange of information and the establishment of support points throughout Europe will mean that this form of criminality will be more effectively dealt with.

Because firms often deal with calls for tender, amendments to EU public procurement rules also formed an important election commitment. ‘For most interior landscapers the European internal market isn’t an issue,’ De Jong explains. ‘They are dependent on local sources of contracts with whom they have longstanding relationships. So it’s extremely frustrating if they are forced repeatedly to go for European tenders for maintenance contracts, when there aren’t really any bids from other member states. I support their calls for the thresholds for tendering to be raised and have proposed such, but these thresholds are unfortunately prescribed by the World Trade Organisation. Happily I have been able to make new Brussels rules on public procurement more small business-friendly, in that there will no longer be senseless turnover requirements and contracts will have to be cut into smaller parcels, in order to give small firms a fair chance.’

There remains, however, a great deal to be done, as was clear from the wishlist of proposals which De Jong took away with him. The small business people hope to see rapidly adopted the measures proposed by De Jong in the European Parliament to subject EU legislation to a test of its implications for the sector. In addition, they are keen to see results from a letter sent by De Jong to the Commission for – in the longer term – a lower VAT rate for garden services to be made possible. According to Egbert Roozen, director of the organisation representing this sector, VHG, the Commission’s answer, though negative, also offered a number of starting points for lobbying the member states and the European Parliament.

The most important item on the wishlist came up during the tour around the firm of Zuidkoop which followed the discussion, when it was noted that there is proof that green surroundings improve workers’ health. This makes it logical that greenery in office buildings should be included as a requirement in EU legislation on working conditions. ‘I’ll be happy to work hard on this,’ De Jong promised, ‘but it’s important that business people join hands with health and safety services, trade unions and organisations active on health issues and that they work together. In that way you can generate sufficient pressure.’

Standing up for small firms is an important theme for the SP during the election campaign for the European Parliament. In the weeks to come, therefore, the party will be conducting campaigns specifically aimed at specific small business sectors.

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