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IfM Bonn defines “medium-sized businesses” by how they combine and balance ownership and leadership. Accordingly, this segment features small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) that are independent of other companies as well as larger family-owned companies , as long as at least half of the company shares are held by the owner(s), who in turn also run the business themselves.

According to IfM , in 2017, around two thirds of the approximately 345,000 SMEs in export sales sold goods both inside the EU and to non-EU countries, while around one third had exclusively non-EU sales. All in all, more than half of SME export sales took place within the European market. In relation to their total sales, the share of exports to neighboring European states was around 11.6%. The neighboring EU zone was just as important for the biggest family-owned companies in Germany: By their own admission, in 2015, these companies earned about every fifth euro of their total revenue from the European market. “In general, mid-sized businesses in Germany have profited to a great extent from the conditions – free trade, for example – put in place by the European single market. For mid-sized businesses, the stability of the bloc is therefore of the utmost importance,” explains Dr. Friederike Welter (IfM Bonn/University of Siegen).