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How a Startup Visa can make the EU (and EU politics) more attractive

If entrepreneurs don’t find the right conditions to create their company in the place they live (which is often the case) they look abroad. What they look for is an well-connected, diverse and attractive market that offers little red tape and legal certainty to develop and grow their startup. As we are working towards the Digital Single Market and the Single Market Strategy, the access of third country entrepreneurs should be part of our discussion.

The timing couldn’t be better as policy makers are encouraging European startups and proposing new rules on migration. Startups are growth engines and a startup visa would be the first step into increase the number of startups in Europe and to show the entrepreneurs that they are welcome.

Instead of overly complex and lengthy procedures Europe needs a single fast-track procedure for innovative business ideas. Such procedures exist already for students, researchers, au pairs and intra-corporate transferees.

A Startup Visa can make the EU the most attractive place for founders to create a company. This could become one of the key reasons for founders to choose the EU over the Silicon Valley, where immigration is expensive, tough and cost of living can make it hard to start. Making the EU the best place to start a company is one big step towards a “wave of European innovative startups” as President Juncker said.

Increasing the number of startups is good for diversity, jobs and the economy. The OECD says that young firms account for 17% of employment and create 42% of new jobs. A startup visa scheme in Chile has created 1200 companies over 5 years in a country 18 million. Compared to the Schengen area this corresponds to 30.000 new companies by 2020.

The digital economy will generate up to 5.7 % of the European GDP in 2016, founders from outside Europe will only contribute a small amount of this but will add a huge portion in terms of diversity and innovation. Instead of choosing between Amsterdam, Berlin, Paris or Tallin, founders would simply choose Europe. Isn’t that what we want?

Looking on our own plate, we are walking straight towards fragmentation with already 7 national startup visa schemes exist and while the Commission is overhauling rules for legal migration this spring, we should not miss this opportunity! This also means that collectively, Europeans have already learned some valuable lessons about how a startup visa scheme should look like.

The Commission has adopted a myriad of strategies in the last year and more are to come. These strategies are followed by endless procedures and some might never see the light of day. The EU-wide Startup Visa could be a neat and lean step in the right direction, proving that Brussels can act fast.

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