EU lawmakers: Single market key to getting Europe out of crisis

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If civil society  engage more actively in its development and implementation, a functioning internal market can help the EU get out of the financial crisis, EU lawmakers said, in a resolution celebrating 20 years of the single market.

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.

Staffan Nilsson, president of the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) said in an opening statement:

"We need a stronger Europe to get us out of this crisis that's going on, to preserve the progress that our society has made and to make conditions for good life quality for the next generations, for our children and grandchildren."

Bernard Cazeneuve, French minister for European affairs, said in a video message:

"What France wants to do is to take a new turn in Europe. We want to work towards growth, reestablishing order in the banking system and in finances. We want a situation in Europe whereby we have more solidarity in monetary, financial terms so that we can justify more political integration."

"It's very important for us to do more and think more about the labour market and the way it works. We shouldn't be afraid of working together, where it's possible to work together. We should strengthen the labour market and bring down barriers in Europe," Cazeneuve continued.

"Anything we can do together in the context of the Single Market, it will work towards that goal.  All of this is something that will be something we will work for in the future," he added.

Philippe Maystadt, honorary president of the European Investment Bank, said focus on innovation will get Europe out of the crisis.

"There's less innovation in Europe. In an advanced economy, the only way to increase growth potential is moving or shifting the technical border frontier, so innovating basically. On average, European enterprises invest less in research, development and innovation than their competitors in the U.S., China and Japan. So what we need to do is to make sure, we got the foundation in place. To make sure that people invest more."

"Let's try to get this European patent set up and put in place. This is something which can bring results in terms of research. We have set that we are going to do this, but it is not yet happening," Maystadt added.

The Rapporteur on the EU Parliament's non-binding resolution, Regina Bastos from the European People's Party, said:

"In the year in which we celebrate its 20th birthday, it is sad to see that there is still a gap between expectations and reality regarding the single market, with European citizens and businesses still facing obstacles in exercising their rights. It is essential to breathe new life into the single market, with European citizens and consumers placed at its centre."

The European Union’s internal market or single market seeks to guarantee the free movement of goods, capital, services and people – the “four freedoms” – within the 27 EU member states.

Launched in October 1992, the single market is intended to be good for competition and specialisation. It allows goods and factors of production to move to the area where they are most valued, thus improving the efficiency of the allocation of resources.

The single market is also intended to drive economic integration whereby the once separate economies of the member states become integrated within a single EU wide economy. Half of the trade in goods within the EU is covered by legislation harmonised by the EU.

The creation of the single market is an ongoing process, with the integration of the service industry still containing gaps. It also has an increasing international element, with the market represented as one in international trade negotiations.

Notably, the internal market is open to three non-EU states, Norway, Switzerland and Iceland.

  • Oct. 2012: European Parliament is scheduled to vote on a draft resolution on 20 main concerns with the single market in Strasbourg.

  • 18-19 Oct.: European Union summit in Brussels.

EU institutions:

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