The challenge for the EU is more than ever to take full advantage of the remaining potential for growth and job creation that exits in the single market.
Europe desperately needs a functioning single market to exit the crisis, EU policymakers stated at the conference "Step up for a stronger Europe", organised by the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) on Tuesday (25 September).
"Why is the single market important? For one simple reason, if we want to find growth in Europe and if we want to fight against the crisis, we have one important element which is our market," said Pierre Delsaux, deputy director general for Internal Market and Services at the European Commission.
"We need to have an integrated market. We don't have natural resources, unfortunately, all we have is our market, and that's what we need to use to exploit and to make sure that we find growth in Europe," he added.
Delsaux stated that a key issue is to make sure that the single market texts fully apply and are implemented by the member states.
"This is not the reality at the moment. Member states should do better. We need to make sure that the single market becomes a reality in the daily life of citizens. The question of the governance of the single market is fundamental," Delsaux told the audience.
Room for improvement
MEP Malcolm Harbour, who is also chair of the Committee for the Internal Market and Consumer Protection (IMCO) of the European Parliament, added that he thought the basic concept of the single market, the free movement of goods, has advanced very significantly.
However, many areas of the single market could be improved.
"A number of member states are still restricting entry to certain professions in their own countries which are freely available to people with local qualification. So that is clearly a fragmentary approach," Habour said.
He mentioned that there's also a lack of respect in certain member states for mutual recognition of good standards.
There are still a number of member states where they are existing that products, that comply with all the European rules and should be placed on the market, have to be tested to their own local standards.
"The market framework is not fragmented, but at an operational level, we still have problems," the MEP said.
Citizens too are too often being neglected in the single market, MEPs warned. On Tuesday, the European Parliament's Internal Market Committee adopted a non-binding resolution pointing to difficulties such as opening bank accounts, registering cars and having professional qualifications recognised.
MEPs blamed these problems on member states' reluctance to implement EU rules swiftly, coordinate with each other and inform citizens of their rights.
Benedicte Federspiel who is a rapporteur for the EESC opinions on the 'Single Market Act' and also a consumer expert highlighted that the EU needs to recreate trust for citizens in the single market in order to create growth.
"That is very important. Consumers do not believe there is a single market. They think there's only a single market for businesses, so it's very important that we get consumers to understand that there is also a single market for them as well," Federspiel said.
"It will take some time before consumer will be in love with the single market. As with love, the single market is a work in progress, but some of us are getting impatient," she added.