Agreement by the European Parliament this week to resolutions on the Single Market Act has cleared the way for the European Commission to launch concrete proposals next Wednesday (13 April).
Internal Market Commissioner Michel Barnier's paper will consist of 12 key initiatives designed to act as levers for economic growth in the EU.
Some of the initiatives represent proposals already agreed, such as plans to introduce a common system for registering patents – a proposal that will go ahead without Spain and Italy, which objected to the proposed linguistic regime.
Professional ID cards
Other initiatives will attempt to revive old ideas. 2005's Professional Qualifications Directive mooted the introduction of professional identity cards, but the idea never caught on.
A consultation paper launched in January this year asked stakeholders for their opinion on a European professional card. At the same time a steering group made up of 32 experts representing different professions – including mountain guides, midwives and pharmacists – was set up to consider the issue of a European professional card.
In its paper this week, the European Commission will push for this group to produce meaningful ideas so that it can finally transform them into reality.
The professional ID card proposal is likely to revive old fears among West European countries about immigration. During the 2005 referendum campaign on the European Constitution in France, the 'Polish plumber' figure embodied popular fears about East European workers wreaking wage havoc on the labour market.
Those fears actually stemmed from the Services Directive, which was subsequently watered down to address labour market concerns.
"The Services Directive was a significant step forward but it must be the start of a process of deepening the internal market rather than the end of it," said Malcolm Harbour MEP (Conservatives; UK), chair of the European Parliament's internal market committee. "Now we need to tear down significant barriers relating to professional qualification recognition, intellectual property and public procurement," he said.
Carbon and corporate taxes
For its key proposal on tax, the Commission has chosen to push its bid for EU-wide carbon taxes, which will be presented by Taxation and Customs Commissioner Algirdas Šemeta on the same day as the Single Market Act re-launch on Wednesday.
He will outline proposals calling for separate carbon dioxide and consumption taxes on fuel, to help Europe meet its climate-change targets and bring more "fiscal coherence" to the internal market.
The Commission had already considered a carbon tax last year but the proposals were delayed due to concerns in the member states on its potential economic impact.
Although the Commission launched separate plans for a Common Consolidated Corporate Tax Base (CCTB) in March, that controversial proposal will only be mentioned as a subordinate issue in the Single Market paper.
The CCCTB – which envisages companies filing one single European tax return to avoid unnecessary administrative burdens – is deemed by the Irish government and businesses is an affront to Ireland's low corporate tax.
The proposals are designed to create a concrete re-launch of cornerstone EU legislation which will be put in place in advance of the 20th anniversary of Jacques Delors' original 1992 Single Market Act next year.
The Commission is keen to push as key initiatives only those items on which it believes it can achieve real legislative progress in advance of the anniversary. The CCCTB is not one of them.