The European Parliament held its first open forum on the Single Market Act on Tuesday (9 November) and fired a series of pointed questions at the draftsman of the plan, Michel Barnier, the French commissioner for the internal market and services.
Two weeks ago, Barnier unveiled 50 proposals designed to re-energise Europeans behind the social and economic potential of the 27-nation bloc.
The proposals will be scrutinised during four months of public hearings, and members of the Parliament were quick to raise questions ranging from climate change to the rights of workers.
Even Mario Monti, the former Italian commissioner for the internal market, was critical of the length of time for public debate and the lack of attention the single market has received in the media.
"Unblocking the market and moving ahead is very urgent," he told Parliament's committee on the internal market and consumer protection, which held the forum. "I thought the Single Market Act would bring us more immediately into the decision-making process."
The single market has not suffered from a lack of consultations, he said, but from a lack of political agreement from member states on some key decisions.
"Where will the political energy come from?" he asked. "We all need to find a breakthrough on how to bring some member states together."
The 50 ideas include:
- Updated rules to protect holidaymakers if their travel provider goes bust.
- New e-commerce rules so creators and artists can sell their work throughout Europe with a one-stop shop for authorisation.
- Mediation or arbitration to resolve cross-border disputes.
- A new system for the electronic exchange of information to help workers transfer their social security benefits if they move.
- For small- and medium-sized businesses, simpler accounting rules, better access to public contracts, and maybe even a common tax base for businesses operating cross-border.
After the public forums, the European institutions are supposed to work together to hone proposals that could be put into action in the next two years.
Barnier said if the single market functioned better, it could add 2-4 percentage points to economic growth in the region and help Europe "rise to the challenge of the 21st century".