The EU's Single Market was created over 25 years ago and has been a cornerstone of the EU's economic development ever since. It is considered one of the EU's greatest achievements and it is at the core of the EU's economic and political integration.
The Single Market has reached a high level of economic integration in what is now the largest combined market place in the world and this has already substantially benefitted the economies of the Member States as well as their cities and regions.
Nevertheless, citizens and entrepreneurs continue to experience barriers that prevent them from fully exploiting the potential of the Single Market and new obstacles are emerging. If remaining barriers were eliminated and existing European laws were applied effectively, the Single Market could still yield substantial additional benefits for the EU economy and for citizens.
The European Commission acknowledges this and has over the years taken a number of initiatives to tackle these barriers as well as improve the implementation and enforcement of the Single Market rules. On 10 March 2020, it published two Communications on the Single Market that continue these ongoing efforts.
The first one is titled Identifying and addressing barriers to the Single Market, and identifies a broad range of obstacles in the Single Market from the perspective of Europe's businesses and consumers. It points to the root causes of such barriers: restrictive and complex national rules, limited administrative capacities, imperfect transposition of EU rules and their inadequate enforcement.
The second one is titled Long term Action Plan for better implementation and enforcement of Single Market rules. This Action Plan is the result of a process that was initiated in March 2019 by the European Council. It contains over 20 measures for better implementation and enforcement of Single Market rules, in close coordination with the Member States.
The Opinion is scheduled for adoption at the ECON Commission meeting of 24 June 2020 and at the plenary session of 12/14 October 2020 and will bring forward the view of LRAs on the EC's aforementioned communications as well as highlight specific (aspects of) barriers at local and regional level. It will also contain policy recommendations aimed at improving the implementation of the Single Market and the enforcement of its rules.
November 2020: Study commissioned by the EP's IMCO committee (November 2020), on the Legal obstacles in Member States to Single Market rules; convergence with the CoR's opinion can be found in denouncing national technical rules that are contrary to single market rules and that represent obstacles for providers from other Member States, as well as in the highlighting of problems with businesses' access to relevant information about applicable
product rules and in the request to make the SOLVIT process more effective.
December 2020: interview for input to a European Parliament Study (carried out by - The impact of COVID19 on the Single Market; the content of the opinion was used as a basis for putting forward the CoR's views on MS and EU measures in the wake of Covid-19 and how they affected the single market.
Janurary 2021: European Parliament resolution of 20 January 2021 on strengthening the single market: the future of free movement of services
Similar to the CoR in its opinion, the EP urges all Member States to ease unjustified and disproportionate barriers to the single market as soon as possible and encourages the Commission to use all means at its disposal to fully enforce existing rules, underlining that promoting the single market, including the free, fair and safe movement of services and people, consumer protection and the strict enforcement of EU law, is paramount for tackling the economic crisis caused by COVID-19.
Like the CoR, the EP points to a serious lack of implementation and enforcement of existing rules, rather than a lack of rules and also like the CoR, it therefore welcomes the Commission’s new-long term action plan for better implementation and enforcement of single market rules so as to maximise the potential of the single market for services.
23 April 2021: As a follow up to the Opinions the CoR adopted in 2020 on the Single Market, Mr Thomas Wobben, Director for Directorate C - Legislative Works, was invited to the Council Working Party on Competitiveness and Growth on 23 April 2021. At the meeting, he presented the perspective of the CoR on the barriers to the single market and the enforcement of the single market rules (in particular related to the free movement of services and goods). This included the following points: (i) an overview of areas where LRAs play an important role in the enforcement of the single market; (ii) the key messages from and follow-up to the CoR's 2020 revised opinion on the services package (Vanraes RE/BE); and (iii) the key messages from and follow-up to the CoR's opinion on the EC's March 2020 single market barriers report and enforcement action plan (Truskolaski EA/PL).
Mr. Wobben underlined the importance of the notification procedure iand the implications of the ECJ's Visser Vastgoed ruling for LRAs. He also highlighted the convergence of the EP's and the CoR's positions on the single market barriers and enforcement of its rules.
The presentation ended with a set of ideas to enhance the cooperation between the CoR and the Council, with the aim to promote the CoR's positions on specific issues related to the Single Market.
THE EUROPEAN COMMITTEE OF THE REGIONS
- believes that the European single market is one of the greatest achievements of the European Union (EU), and represents a unique model of integration in the world by guaranteeing free movement of people, goods, services and capital throughout the EU and in associated countries and regions;
- appreciates the efforts of the European Commission (EC) to identify barriers to the European single market and points out that its communication of 10 March 2020 presents key problems concerning businesses that require immediate solutions. Regrets however that the two EC communications focus mainly on the obstacles perceived by businesses and did not address concerns by other social partners and address consumer aspects only peripherally;
- acknowledges that the form of the current regulations and tools for the single market is better suited to exchange of goods than of services. The Committee stresses the need to build flexible tools that can quickly be adapted to changing and newly emerging products and services;
- calls on the EC to be proactive and, together with the EU legislators, ensure that the existing procedures for A1 certification in border regions are simplified;
- encourages the extension of the powers and geographical structure of the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO);
- welcomes the establishment of a Single Market Enforcement Task-Force (SMET) but regrets that its membership is so far restricted to representatives of Member States;
- considers it essential to make bold decisions on Member States in breach of binding legislation so that proceedings could be imminently launched, carried out and enforced;
- calls for better application of the principle of mutual recognition to the free movement of goods, which has not been used to its full potential in practice, and for applying this principle to the area of services as much as possible.