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17.1.3.  The foundations and the means of EU's industrial policy

    With the entry into force, in November 1993, of the Treaty of Maastricht [see section 2.2], industrial competitiveness became one of the stated objectives of European integration. Article 6 of the Treaty on the functioning of the EU (TFEU) declares that the Union shall have competence to carry out actions to support, coordinate or supplement the actions of the Member States concerning, inter alia, industry. The Title on Industry of the TFEU announces that the Union and the Member States must ensure the existence of the conditions necessary for the competitiveness of the Union's industry. For that purpose, in accordance with a system of open and competitive markets, their action aims at: speeding up the adjustment of industry to structural changes; encouraging an environment favourable to initiative and to the development of undertakings throughout the Community, particularly small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs); encouraging an environment favourable to cooperation between undertakings; and fostering better exploitation of the industrial potential of innovation and research and technological development policies (Article 173 TFEU, ex Article 157 TEC).

    This article forms the legal basis for Union action in the fields of industry and business. It specifies however that it does not provide a basis for the introduction by the Union of any measures that could lead to a distortion of competition or contain tax provisions or provisions relating to the rights and interests of employed persons. The objectives set out above may be pursued by the following means: the mutual consultation of the Member States and, where necessary, the coordination of their action, in liaison with the Commission, concerning, in particular initiatives aiming at the establishment of guidelines and indicators, the organisation of exchange of best practice, and the preparation of the necessary elements for periodic monitoring and evaluation; the coordination with other Union policies and activities; and specific measures in support of action taken in the Member States, but excluding any harmonisation of the laws and regulations of the Member States, decided by the European Parliament and the Council, acting in accordance with the ordinary legislative procedure and after consulting the Economic and Social Committee. These clauses denote the reluctance of the Member States to weaken national policies in favour of a common industrial policy. Hence, most industrial policy instruments in Europe are still in the hands of national governments rather than in those of common institutions.

    The competitiveness policy of the Union is intended to put into place the institutional and policy arrangements that create conditions for the sustainable growth of enterprises, particularly SMEs. Achieving competitiveness and sustainability entails the ability to attain and maintain the economic competitiveness and growth of enterprises in accordance with sustainable development objectives. Improved productivity, including resource and energy productivity, is the primary source of sustainable income growth. Competitiveness also depends on companies' ability to take full advantage of opportunities such as the internal market.

    Pursuing the 'Europe 2020' strategy objectives [see section 7.3], the Programme for the Competitiveness of Enterprises and small and medium-sized enterprises (COSME) (2014 - 2020) aims to contribute to the reinforcement of competitiveness and sustainability of Union enterprises, in particular SMEs, to support existing SMEs, to encourage an entrepreneurial culture and to promote the growth of SMEs, the advancement of the knowledge society, and development based on balanced economic growth [Regulation 1287/2013]. The general objectives of the COSME programme are: paying particular attention to the specific needs of SMEs established in the Union and of SMEs established in third countries participating in the COSME programme: strengthening the competitiveness and sustainability of the Union's enterprises, particularly SMEs; and encouraging entrepreneurial culture and promoting the creation and growth of SMEs. The specific objectives of the programme are: to improve access to finance for SMEs in the form of equity and debt; and to improve access to markets, particularly inside the Union but also at global level; and to improve framework conditions for the competitiveness and sustainability of Union enterprises, particularly SMEs, including in the tourism sector. The COSME programme is open to the participation of: European Free Trade Association (EFTA) countries which are members of the European Economic Area (EEA); acceding countries, candidate countries and potential candidates under certain conditions; countries falling within the scope of the European neighbourhood policies, under certain conditions.

    In the context of the ''Europe 2020 Strategy'' [see section 7.3], a Regulation lays down uniform requirements and conditions for managers of collective investment undertakings that wish to use the designation "EuVECA" (European Venture Capital Funds) in relation to the marketing of qualifying venture capital funds in the Union [Regulation 345/2013]. In the same context, a Regulation lays down uniform requirements and conditions for managers of collective investment undertakings that wish to use the designation "EuSEF" (European Social Entrepreneurship Funds) in relation to the marketing of qualifying social entrepreneurship funds in the Union [Regulation 346/2013].

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