European Commission launches plan to help Greek SMEs in tourism sector

European Commissioner for Fisheries and Maritime Affairs Maria Damanaki, Prime Minister Antonis Samaras and Tourism Minister Olga Kefaloyianni are slated to open a high-level meeting on maritime and coastal tourism in Athens on Monday as part of efforts to boost small and medium-size enterprises active in the sector.

A "mission for growth" has also been organized by the European Commission on Tuesday to bring representatives of about 145 European companies to Greece for bilateral meetings with 330 SMEs from across the country aimed at forming new partnerships and discussing opportunities for collaboration in the tourism and coastal shipping sectors.

"Tourism, as the 'heavy industry' of Greece and maritime and coastal tourism and blue growth, represents a unique opportunity to re-ignite Greece's SMEs and its path to growth and competitiveness," the European Commission said in a report on Monday.

In its report, the Commission said that it has presented a new strategy to enhance coastal and maritime tourism in Europe, proposing 14 actions to enable coastal regions and business to tackle the challenges of the crisis and exploit opportunities for growth and job sustainably.

According to the Commission, SMEs provide 85 percent of all new jobs in the bloc.

"Recent efforts implemented by the Greek government are starting to have positive effects on enterprises and as a consequence on the overall conditions of the economy," the Commission said.

It said that representatives from SMEs and also the European Commission's Directorate General for Enterprise and industry will be traveling to Athens for Tuesday's event, which is focused on promoting business partnerships between Greek and other EU companies, but also with other non-European countries in sectors identified as key contributors to achieving growth in the country: tourism, agri-food, food processing, aquaculture, biotechnology and blue biotechnology, energy and ICT.

The Commission also announced the launch of COSME, a new 2.3-billion-euro program for SMEs which aims to address challenges such as access to financing, access to foreign markets, improvement of the business environment and support to entrepreneurs. The program aims to help EU enterprises by enabling them to receive more than 22 billion euros in secured loans over the next seven years.