SME update

June 2024


  • Corporate sustainability due diligence Directive finally adopted
  • New anti-money laundering rules adopted with changed and new provisions that will impact small practitioners
  • Influential new reports set out expectations for the priorities of the next European Commission

European Commission

EU SME envoy Pieper steps down following scandal

Markus Pieper, selected by European Commission (EC) President Ursula von der Leyen for the EU SME envoy role, resigned on Monday 15 April, just hours before his official start. Von der Leyen faced accusations of favouritism for appointing him. In response to the news, she announced in a statement that she “has decided to suspend the reopening of the selection procedures for the position of SME Envoy until after the European elections.”

The EC had been accused of choosing Pieper over two other highly qualified candidates and faced strong criticism, notably from parts of the European Parliament (EP) where the nomination was seen as a political appointment for one of von der Leyen’s allies within the German Christian Democratic party.

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Corporate sustainability due diligence Directive formally adopted

Following the EP’s vote on the final text in April and a final rubber stamping by EU governments in the Council on 24 May, the corporate sustainability due diligence Directive (CSDDD) can become EU law. The final agreement text contains several differences from an earlier agreement reached between the EP and the Council; see the previous SME update for an outline of these differences.

The legislation will only affect largest companies, but they will be expected to require sustainability and human rights performance and risks related information notably from their suppliers of goods and services, SMEs included.

Accountancy Europe published a statement to mark the adoption of the final text.

European Parliament

New anti-money laundering rules adopted

On 24 April, the EP Plenary adopted the final agreements on the anti-money laundering (AML) package consisting notably of a new AML Regulation, a revised sixth AML Directive as well as Regulation establishing the new AML Authority (AMLA).

The new AML rules, most of which will be applicable from 2027 onward, introduce amended and new obligations on the non-financial sector, including accountancy companies. Small and medium sized accountancy practices (SMPs) should take particular note of the changes and prepare accordingly.

To support SMPs, Accountancy Europe is organising on 25 June a webinar together with CFE Tax Advisers Europe. The webinar will bring together three practitioners who will present the main changes and discuss their practical impact for practitioners.

For more information about the webinar, please contact Johan Barros at [email protected].


Enrico Letta publishes report on the future of the Single Market with specific recommendations for SMEs

Enrico Letta, President of the Jacques Delors Institute and former Italian prime minister, was tasked by EU Member States to draft a report on the future of the EU Single Market. Published on April 18, the report analyses key barriers to the Single Market and offers recommendations to overcome them. Although the report is legally non-binding, it is expected to influence the priorities of the next EC following June’s EU elections.

One of the main recommendations is to set up a strong and robust “savings and investment union” (SIU), a new version of the EU’s Capital Markets Union (CMU) that was launched in 2015 but criticised by some as it lacked a holistic vision and sufficient ambition. Letta believes that a new SIU is necessary to finance Europe’s sustainable and digital transitions.

Another strong focus of the report is improving the Single Market for SMEs. Among its recommendations in this regard is to update the EU’s SME definition, which Letta argues is too restrictive for the 21st century. Moreover, Letta recommends to distinctively recognise mid-caps from larger companies in EU legislation.

These ideas are already starting to gain wind (see article below).

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Joint Franco-German paper on boosting competitiveness in the EU

On 28 May, the governments of France and Germany published a joint statement outlining their shared vision for fostering the EU’s competitiveness. Key recommendations include:

  • reducing reporting burdens stemming from legislation by “at least” 25% using a more rigorous methodology
  • creating a new company category called “midcaps” with employee thresholds in-between 250 (current ceiling of the EU SME definition) and 500 employees, with the aim of extending “administrative exemptions” to such companies.

Even though this joint paper is legally non-binding, it is bound to have strong influence as a document co-produced by the two largest economies in the EU.

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Accountancy Europe responds to EFRAG’s VSME and LSME consultations

Accountancy Europe submitted its responses to EFRAG’s voluntary (VSME) and listed SME (LSME) standards on 22 May. We propose several improvements to make both standards more practical for their intended purpose.

In terms of broader messages, we call on the EC to revise the corporate sustainability reporting Directive (CSRD) to set the VSME standard – rather than the LSME one – as the legal cap for sustainability data requests by larger entities. Moreover, for the VSME standard to be effective, it is crucial to obtain broad acceptance by large businesses, so that SMEs can be sure that making efforts to comply with the VSME standard will be a sufficient investment to fulfil data requests.

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This curated content was brought to you by Johan Barros, Accountancy Europe Senior Manager, Head of Advocacy & Policy, since 2015. You can send him tips by email, follow him on X and connect with him on LinkedIn.