On 19 September 2022, the Commission adopted the proposal for a Single Market Emergency Instrument (SMEI) to support a the single market in times of crisis. The SMEI includes a governance structure, and frameworks for contingency planning, vigilance and emergencies. It also provides for exceptional measures to ensure the availability of crisis-relevant goods.
The Commission's proposal is a response to disruptive events such as the COVID-19 crisis and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, that have shown that some of the current rules and tools for the single market are insufficiently adapted to crises and emergencies.Its aim is to mitigate the harmful impacts on the single market, safeguard the free movement of persons, goods and services and maximise the availability of products and services needed in the crisis response.
The objective of the CoR's opinion is to ensure that the regional and local perspectives are taken into account when and if the Commission's proposal is decided on by the EU's co-legislators. In that context, the local and regional relevance of this file speaks for itself.
Local and regional authorities are often responsible for taking and implementing measures to counter the consequences of crises that can affect the integrity of the Single Market. The frailty of the Single Market in times of crisis is very much felt both in border regions and cities and in local and regional economies that depend on cross-border activities and EU wide travel. Obvious examples are local and regional economies with important tourism and hospitality sectors, as well as territories whose economies rely upon seasonal worker and/or commuters being able to travel smoothly. Indeed, many regions and cities have built their prosperity on the opportunities the Single Market offers them. Their views therefore also matter for the efficiency of the SMEI.
The subsidiarity analysis that accompanies the proposal states that some regions are disproportionally vulnerable and exposed to supply chain disruptions, in particular the EU outermost regions. This requires a coordinated approach to anticipate, prepare for and respond to crises that have important effects across borders or specifically in border regions. That can be achieved throught an appropriate involvement of local and regional authorities in the implementation of the SMEI and to strengthen the place-based elements in the proposal.
On 10 March the EP's IMPCO lead rapporteur published his draft report on the SMEI file. It can be noted that the draft report is in line with the CoR opinion, in so far as it aims to increase the focus of the SMEI on the specific situation of border regions.
Following the draft IMCO report, the members of the IMCO committee submitted a number of amendments on 31 March. A number of those are inspired and/or in accordance with amendments put forward in the CoR opinion: they call for an involvement of the CoR in the governance of the SMEI and for further taking into account the specific situation of border regions.
Others have been tabled, according to their justification, because they stem from the CoR opinion and are said not to reflect political ownership of the MEPs who tabled them, or their groups, and are added to formally introduce them into the legislative process. These CoR amendments also aim at weighing in the particularities of certain territories, at strengthening the involvement of local and regional authorities in the governance of the SMEI and they suggest for the SMEI to take partial precedence over the Schengen Border Code.
The EP adopted its first reading position on 13 September 2023 that included the CoR's calls for more CoR/LRA involvement in the governance of the SMEI and a stronger focus on border and outermost regions in the implementation of the SMEI. More specifically the EP picked up the following points that were impacted by the CoR opinion:
• Include input from the local and regional level in the coordination and compilation mission of the central liaison offices and include LRAs in the cooperation for the management of the internal market vigilance and emergency modes
• Invite, where appropriate, representatives of the CoR as observers to the relevant meetings of the emergency and resilience board
• Provide LRAs with relevant information and assistance from the Union level single point of contact
• Develop, when relevant, Commission guidance on knowledge dissemination and the implementation of different tasks at regional and local level
• Oblige Member States to pay particular attention to the situation and needs of the border regions when providing information on crisis response measures
• Add an assessment of the specific situation of border regions and outermost regions in the decision criteria for the activation of the vigilance mode and conduct stress tests covering comprehensive Union-wide stress tests or specific geographical areas or border regions
• Take into account cross-border effects the impact on particularly vulnerable or exposed geographical areas such as the outermost regions to define the crisis affected proportion of the internal market
The file is currently in trilogue.
THE EUROPEAN COMMITTEE OF THE REGIONS
welcomes the Commission's proposal for a Single Market Emergency Instrument to ensure the functioning of the single market, together with the free movement of people, in future crisis situations, as well as the proposed traffic light system with the three phases of contingency planning, single market surveillance and single market emergency for better crisis prevention, preparedness and management;
reiterates its view that the free movement of goods, people and services in particular must be protected against crises; stresses the specific role of border regions for the functioning of the single market;
calls on the European Commission to give partial priority to the free movement rules of the Single Market Emergency Instrument over the Schengen Borders Code in order to ensure the free movement of persons, services and goods in times of crisis;
calls for representatives of the European Committee of the Regions to have a permanent seat on the advisory group and for local and regional authorities to be involved in the design of the central liaison offices and for equal access to national single points of contact and the single point of contact at EU level;
stresses the need to clarify individual definitions in order to achieve legal certainty and make clear under which conditions and circumstances and in which crises the emergency instrument will be used; points out the need for a due process that guarantees the involvement not only of the Member States and the European Parliament, but of national and regional parliaments too;
calls for a review of the necessity and proportionality of monitoring supply chains, of collecting information from businesses and of the obligation to comply with priority-rated orders; in times of crisis additional burdens on businesses, especially small and medium-sized enterprises, should be kept to a minimum;