When: Tuesday, March 23, 2021 11:00 - Tuesday, March 23, 2021 12:00
Host: Peter Ostman, Finland MP and expert on small business
Speakers: Marcelus Suciu, owner of Marty Restaurants Romania // Carlo de Romanis, owner of restaurants and hotels in Italy, France and Belgium
The second part in the series focused on the specific situations SMEs are facing in the different countries and how the recovery initiatives at European or national level are influencing that.
Each speaker took turns describing how the health crisis and the restrictions affected their business: closures, having to let people go, shrinking the operations etc. They also spoke about the ways they had to re-adjust their operations, eliminate everything that was unnecessary, sell assets etc. just to stay afloat.
Speaking about the support they each received from the national governments, both guests listed the few stop-gap measures but highlighted that it was insufficient and not robust enough to keep businesses going, nor was it timely. They also mentioned that business sectors which were not so adversely (or at all) affected by the pandemic restrictions received the same amount of grants, which the speakers deemed unfair and a misuse of funds.
When asked about the digitization and green transition the recovery fund is said to prioritize, both businessmen welcomed the initiative, but also acknowledged the limitations. While eliminating plastic key cards for hotel rooms, plastic straws in restaurants etc. is a good start, they pointed to the fact that switching to catering and delivery means non-reusable packaging remains a challenge, for instance. Checking in and out digitally from a hotel room might seem beneficial, but it also means jobs were eliminated.
Mr. Suciu also mentioned the fact that digitization of an entire industry like HoReCa is very costly and he would like to see the EU, as well as the national governments recognizing that fact and helping more.
Both speakers addressed the merits of the total lockdowns and the chaotic rollout of the vaccination campaign. Mr. Suciu argued that keeping the restaurants and cafes open at 30% capacity, with hygiene measures in place, could have made a big difference for the SMEs in the industry. Mr. de Romanis criticized the EU ban on member states to purchase vaccines independently.