​​History has shown us that family businesses have proven to be some of the most robust, dynamic sectors of the economy.  They are, in fact, the backbone to the economy generating millions of turnover and their existence provides stability to the economy in a way that no other enterprise can.  Unfortunately at the same time family businesses are exposed to their vulnerabilities and it has been these same vulnerabilities that have served as the common factor into the decline of family businesses across Europe. One of the key factors of this is that after years in operation and practise, when it comes to facilitating the transfer, many businesses were faced with either a legislative vacuum or else legislation that would render it not feasible to continue with the transfer. Whilst we have to accept that some family business die a natural death or change their format to adapt to the times they are in, others die a forced death due to the hurdles faced in going through the arduous and emotional process of transferring a business they grew up in and grew up with.  

With these considerations in mind, Malta has come up with a legislation that looks at these difficulties and finds sound, practical and responsible ways in paving a way ahead. It aims at allowing businesses to considerably increase their chance of survival and to prosper in what is an ever increasing competitive market. This legislation, [The Family Business Act], is the first known of its kind, is being led by the Ministry for the Economy, Investment and Small Business.

The Commission has undertaken various policy initiatives in this area since the 1994 Recommendations on Business Transfers however to date regulations and policy take up in individual member states has been low.  As a result, during 2016, the Commission embarked on three projects:

1. Definition of standards for efficient matching platforms in Europe to support sellers and buyers of SMEs;

​2. Training of specialised advisors in business transfers;

3. Developing an awareness raising model and a guide book for SME business transfers in Europe.

This Conference will allow the Commission the possibility to present the outcomes of the three projects, and consult stakeholders collectively in the best way to:

1) Support and develop quality standards for online market platforms in order to establish an efficient European Business Transfer market; 

2) Disseminate the model guidelines to Member States to raise awareness and support a better networking and advisory services; and 

3) Promote the national and regional opportunities to improve the environment for business transfers through access to finance opportunities offered by the EU instruments such as COSME, structural funds and Horizon 2020.

Improving the environment for business transfers will also ultimately provide businesses with more opportunities to scale-up. This latter issue is one of the priorities for the Maltese Presidency of the Council of the EU and will in fact be covered in detail during the Informal Competiveness Council. In addition, the outcome of the Business Transfers Conference, in particular, the outcome of the questionnaires as compiled in the final report, will also be presented as an AOB item during the May Competiveness Council. This will harness the ongoing support that Malta has always put forward towards creating a better environment for SMEs since these are the backbone of its economy, and also that of the EU.