European Union competition regulators said they have approved a €10m Irish support scheme for the restructuring of small and medium-sized companies (SMEs). 

"Small and medium sized companies are the backbone of our economy and it is good that we have been able to endorse this Irish scheme to support SMEs that get into difficulties," EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said. 

"These smaller companies employ a lot of people and this scheme should help them preserve jobs without unduly distorting competition," she added in a statement.

Under the scheme, Enterprise Ireland will be entitled to offer support to SMEs in financial difficulty, particularly if there is a risk of job losses. 

The European Commission said the support was transparent and limited in time and scope, and therefore was compatible with EU state aid rules.

The Enterprise Ireland scheme, which runs up to 2020, aims to avoid situations where "value-creating and viable SMEs", with the potential to restore their competitiveness, are prevented from accessing finance from credit markets.

The support will take the form of equity investments and will be available to SMEs active in all sectors of the economy, with the exception of the steel, coal and financial sectors.