“SMEs’ capacity to innovate and adapt is key to meet the market needs” – Interview with MEP Romana Tomc

Armed with solid professional and political backgrounds and a strong will to make things change, the Slovene MEP, Romana Tomc (EPP) shared her views with UNITEE on the development of SMEs, unemployment and the benefits of diversity for the European single market.

What is your professional background? What drove you when deciding to run a political career?

I am an economist by profession and knew that going into politics allow me to make the most of my professional background and training.

I worked for the Slovene Chamber of Commerce for ten years and was then responsible for SMEs. I was to deal with their problems, help them develop, overcome challenges, and get greater visibility, just like what UNITEE does.

After having worked for the Chamber, I decided it was time for me to change my professional scenery. I was chosen to work for the Directorate General of the Slovene Government. In January 2008, I was elected State Secretary of the Ministry for Labour, Family and Social Affairs of the Republic of Slovenia.

On the crest of my rather positive career path, I decided to run the local elections (in Slovenia) and was elected Vice-President of the Slovene Parliament in 2011. Three years later, I ran the European elections and got the unique chance to represent Slovenia in Brussels at the European Parliament and work as an MEP.

Basically, one thing led to another. I learnt, grew and improved to make the most of everything to try to change things for a better and smarter Europe.

What has been done by the EU with respect to unemployment? What is yet to be done?

This is, to me, one of the most crucial and vital problem to tackle in Europe. I, myself, am greatly involved in it. Should one want to reduce the unemployment rate, one of the key solutions is to create working places. Who is the most able to do so if not companies and SMEs in particular?

Very often, we are not aware of the real cause of unemployment and we try to tackle it as a whole, coming up with dicey solutions like an over proportion of subsidies. They are nothing but a meagre additional aid to deal with the precarious situation Europe is facing.

What the European Union should do is find innovative ways to boost companies’ optimism and put them on the right path through a simultaneous grant of subsidies – I believe in social aid to prevent exclusion – and motivational mediums.

 Youth unemployment reached 22.5% last April. What is your opinion of traineeships and practiceship to fulfil Europe 2020’s goals with respect to youth employment? Where do you think the solutions lie?

Obviously, traineeships and practiceship are part of the solution, but the greater the problem, the broader the solutions. One of my warhorse is inducing motivation. The current situation does not allow graduate students to find a job in their field of predilection that easily. Beset by a latent lack of motivation, they find themselves on the edge of social exclusion and its terrible consequences.

According to you, how can SMEs and ethnic entrepreneurship stimulate economic growth in the European Union?

Just like Jean-Claude Juncker said, SMEs are the backbone of the European Economy and all kinds of entrepreneurship should be fostered. What I want to see, and work for, is an open and diverse entrepreneurship sphere.

People with a migrant background can really act as bridges. Armed with their dual linguistic and cultural background, they are a way to merge two markets, two different kinds of needs.

As generators of niche markets, a New European workforce can have a considerably positive effect on the performance of businesses and one of the strongest assets to revitalise the European economy. And the best place for them to thrive is SMEs. Small companies have room to be innovative and adapt to the market’s needs and be successful.

How can they get greater visibility and internationalize?

One of their numerous positive characteristics is their capacity to innovate and reinvent themselves. They are no old, rusted and outdated mastodons that can no longer adapt to an ever-changing market.

Now, when it comes to going international, I would say that benefitting from a financial aid is crucial at first – in spite of my being fairly reluctant to the grant of subsidies. Then, it is up to entrepreneurs to promote themselves. The key is getting seen and stand out: go to Business and Trade Fairs where you can do a bit of networking and meet professionals.

What is vital for an emergent commerce to thrive is to seize every opportunity that is offered. With the rise of ICTs and of the Internet, there is almost no need to go abroad and B2B meetings are now very often held online. It is ‘just’ a matter of keeping yourself aware of what is waiting for you.


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