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Reform Support


Foreign investment and trade

Foreign investment and trade in goods and services, both within the EU and with non-EU countries, is a key factor contributing to prosperity. While the EU is the global leader on trade, some Member States lag behind in trade integration and in attracting foreign direct investment. Member States can take action to reap additional benefits from the single market and international value chains in order to support economic recovery and boost jobs and growth.

Examples of support

  • Designing single window digital solutions for traders interacting with authorities.
  • Developing internationalisation strategies for regions lagging behind in order to reap the benefits of globalisation.
  • Analysing Member State’s regulatory environment, identifying barriers and drivers of foreign direct investment and trade, and enhancing administrative capability to attract investment and boost trade.
  • Developing an action plan for the introduction of artificial intelligence for investment and trade agencies.

Better regulation, licensing and inspections

Red tape and time-consuming procedures make doing business costly and uncertain. Better regulation is about designing and evaluating national policies and legislation transparently with evidence and developing policy by taking into consideration the views of citizens, businesses and other stakeholders. It aims to reduce bureaucracy for businesses, including through the simplification of their investment licensing legislation and the introduction of streamlined and risk-based inspection mechanisms.

Examples of support

  • Reviewing, simplifying and streamlining legislation and regulatory mechanisms.
  • Supporting the establishment of a regulatory environment for complex and innovative business models.
  • Providing capacity building to authorities.
  • Preparing an action plan with a road map of measures.
  • Proposing institutional changes and new governance structures.

The Commission supported Portugal's efforts to improve the way the legislation is prepared by strengthening its regulatory impact assessment system. Better assessing the impact of new laws should improve the business climate and boost investment.

Small and medium-sized enterprises and other sectors

Restarting economic activity across economic sectors is important for a sustainable recovery. Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) play a central role in the European Union’s economic fabric, providing two out of three jobs. In 2020, the European Commission adopted a dedicated SME strategy, which aims to reduce red tape and help SMEs to do business across the single market and beyond. Tailor-made policies in key economic sectors such as tourism will provide Member States with opportunities for job creation and regional development.

Examples of support

  • Developing SMEs and regional growth strategies.
  • Improving management standards in SMEs.
  • Designing funding mechanisms and tools for developing an ecosystem for start-ups and the digitalisation of SMEs.
  • Preparing an action plan to support creative industries.
  • Promoting better destination management in the area of tourism.

Competition and consumer policy

In a more globalised and digitalised economy where a large number of transactions take place online or through pricing algorithms, competition and consumer protection authorities find it challenging to carry out their duties via traditional means. In response, the EU Member States are looking for tailored capacity-building programmes on the most advanced techniques in market surveillance, investigation practices, ex post evaluation and impact assessment. They are also seeking to step up their efforts in effectively monitoring the granting of State aid and assessing its impact on productivity, competition and the economy.

Examples of support

  • Improving the system of detecting competition infringements.
  • Effectively using IT tools in competition investigations.
  • Evaluating competition and consumer protection decisions and providing recommendations.
  • Carrying out impact assessment of State aid schemes.
  • Enhancing functionalities of State aid registries.

Digital economy, research and innovation

Digital technologies have a profound impact on our way of living and doing business. Member States need to have the capacity to reap the benefits of our increasingly digitalised society and face the challenges it brings. They are looking to design policies and deploy innovative solutions to give businesses the confidence, competences and means to digitalise and grow. A systematic and forward-looking research and innovation strategy is crucial to a more productive and green economy.

Examples of support

  • Supporting the innovation ecosystem at national and regional level, including smart specialisation.
  • Designing tools for technology transfer, commercialisation of research and development and better integration in value chains.
  • Supporting the digital transformation of businesses and developing digital tools and service platforms for businesses.
  • Advising on improving the digital infrastructure, including Very High Capacity Network development
  • Proposing technical solutions and transferring skills to implement Building Information Modelling (BIM) in public infrastructure planning and procurement.
  • Designing an industry strategy, an action plan for its implementation and a governance model for its monitoring.

Investment management, public–private partnerships and state-owned enterprises

Investment in the European Union remains below pre-financial crisis levels. It was further weakened by the COVID-19 pandemic. The Recovery and Resilience Facility offers large-scale financial support for investment and reforms. In order to be able to make a full use of it and boost productivity, public finances and growth, Member States are looking for ways to improve strategic planning and management of their public resources and assets. This includes strengthening the design and implementation of sound public investment projects and public–private partnerships (PPPs) to ensure value for money as well as to enhance the governance of state-owned enterprises for increased efficiency, better functioning of markets and improved public services.

Examples of support

  • Strengthening national authorities’ capacity for the selection and management of public investment projects.
  • Supporting the reform of national concessions/PPP frameworks and improving the PPP policy model.
  • Improving authorities’ capacity to design and manage PPP projects.
  • Modernising the state-owned enterprises’ corporate governance framework in line with international good practices.

Contact details

Head of Unit Growth and business environment


Main contact point for applying for the Technical Support Instrument

Further details on the work related to growth and business environment

Find out more