24 years after Jacques Delors's Single European Act, Internal Market Commissioner Michel Barnier has proposed a new 'Single Market Act'. Why do you support this initiative?
It is essential to review the single market, to have a real action plan. Since its launch, it has clearly progressed, but below our expectations. It is the driver of industrial integration and growth in Europe. However, investment is lacking in areas such as infrastructure, energy, telecoms and even health. Worker mobility is very low and people fear for their public services. Citizens do not understand this market, it confuses them.
This Act aims to revise the doctrine with the support of states and citizens. The single act [of 1986] was based on opening up to the international market, liberalisation, competition. This doctrine is not in question. But public policies must strike a better balance with the market. The weak point of the 2000s was a liberalisation that did not see the crisis coming – and a lack of supervision.
Do you want to go back on liberalisation?
No. But we are going to discipline it and correct it through public action capable of creating more cohesion and preparing long-term investments. The choice of a global economy and competition is not in doubt.
The social clause of the text, which aims to ensure that the policies developed do not have negative social consequences, was the subject of debate in the European Commission. Could this clause disappear when it comes to the discussion phase?
This clause is an important symbolic dimension of the system. It is a 'correction of the market towards the social'. It is in conformity with the Treaty of Lisbon.
The Act is a set of proposals worked out by the Commission. The political action will come next. It will not be easy. It will, I think, hardly be possible for a country to oppose this fundamental principle [of the social clause]. But the lawyers say that there will be a battle about the interpretation.
The Commission wants to put the citizen at the heart of this Act, but the single market is not very sellable, nor is it very 'sexy' for communicating about the EU.
An effort to inform people and explain what is at stake is needed. MEPs will be involved, but I am also counting on national and local politicians and trade unions. Talking about the Act and the internal market will make it sexy. This Act is an opportunity. We need Europeans to get a taste for cross-border trade. They are not only consumers and tourists but also workers. We need to develop an 'Erasmus for workers'.
The draft text refers to a 'Pact for the Single Market'. After the meeting of the College of Commissioners, this became an 'Act for the Single Market'. Why did it change?
Michel Barnier wants his proposal to be a pact, so that citizens make the challenges their own. This desire is not shared by everyone. It is difficult to propose a 'pact' now, but the aim is to do so in four months, after the discussion phase. The action plan will then no longer be a proposal but an agenda.
The work that is beginning is interesting. The Stability and Growth Pact won't get people motivated. Yet this act could interest a certain number. Citizens must mobilise themselves.