Local and regional authorities are often the first actors to implement EU and national measures to counteract the consequences of crises that affect the Single Market. Their relevance and needs should not be overlooked and especially internal EU borders must remain open as much as possible, to limit the impact of the crisis on workers and businesses on the ground. This is the main message of the opinion on the Single Market Emergency Instrument that was adopted during the plenary session of the European Committee of the Regions (CoR) on 8 February.
The COVID-19 pandemic has shown how crises can have a disruptive effect on the European Single Market. After its creation 30 years ago, trade within the Single Market accounts for 56 million European jobs and the estimated economic benefits range between 8% and 9% of the EU's GDP. In order to better prepare the European Union for future crises, the European Commission has put forward the "Single Market Emergency Instrument" (SMEI), to create a transparent mechanism that enables a rapid and effective crisis response by the EU.
CoR members broadly welcomed the Commission's proposal. At the same time, their opinion on the SMEI, which was adopted unanimously, advocates the better involvement of the CoR and of local and regional authorities to ensure robust overall preparedness and a response framework that complements existing and new rules. In particular, the complementarity between the Schengen Borders Code and the emergency instrument has to be improved.
The rapporteur of the opinion Muhterem Aras (DE/Greens), President of the Landtag of Baden-Württemberg, said: “Instead of exacerbating our problems in times of multiple cross-border crises by isolating ourselves, we need to improve preparation and effective cooperation between the EU, member states and local and regional authorities. The Single Market Emergency Instrument, however, can only achieve its goals when freedom of movement, one of our most important European achievements, is upheld. It must therefore have partial priority over the Schengen Borders Code so that the internal borders remain open even in crisis and ensure a genuine added value to all citizens.”
Moreover, it is local and regional authorities, Europe's border regions and their businesses that are dependent on the smooth functioning of the Single Market and feel its fragility in times of crisis first. Therefore, a stronger territorial focus of the SMEI is needed to ensure its efficiency on the ground. Thus, to take local and regional concerns more into account, it is essential to involve the European Committee of the Regions in the advisory group, and local and regional authorities in the design of the liaison offices.
In order to minimise additional burdens in times of crisis for companies, especially small and medium-sized ones, CoR members are also calling for a review of the monitoring of supply chains, the provision of information by companies and the obligation to place priority orders. Lastly, the opinion calls for greater parliamentary involvement in the instrument to ensure democratic accountability and parliamentary scrutiny of executive measures in times of crisis.
The Single Market Emergency Instrument (SMEI) is a crisis governance framework for the Single Market proposed by the European Commission on 19 September 2022, which aims to preserve the free movement of goods, services and persons and the availability of essential goods and services in the event of future emergencies, to the benefit of citizens and businesses across the EU. It establishes a crisis coordination and management framework to identify different threats to the Single Market and complements other EU legislative measures for crisis management.
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