Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are being urged to be more competitive by continuing to support the European legislation for free trade, the European Commission said during its World Standards Day 2006 conference on Monday.

The standards are developed by the European Standards Organizations and contribute to improving the European Union’s regulation by keeping EU legislation “simple and limiting it to the essential elements for the protection of the health and safety of citizens”, said the EU in a statement.

“European and international standards give our enterprises the ability to compete in global markets. SMEs including their enormous innovative capacity must be more engaged in standardization. A new handshake between standardization and SMEs in Europe is both necessary and possible now,” said European Commission Vice-President Günter Verheugen who is responsible for industry and enterprise policy.

The EU said that SMEs have often considered standardization as “a private domain of big companies”, which is why they have not benefited from it in the past. Participants of the World Standards Day 2006 discussed better access to easier-to-use standards and how to improve participation of SMEs in standardization.