Pierre Perrin-Monlouis Dernière mise à jour: 20 octobre 2021
European Policy Centre’s Conference
Brussels, 3 April 2008
Thank you very much Fabian for your words of introduction. I am delighted to be here today to speak with you on the “Successes and new challenges in the implementation of the Single Market”.
Ladies and gentlemen,
the point I want to make today is simple: The Single Market is more than an idea of the past, it is far from complete today, and above all, it is a challenge for the future that requires imagination and political will to progress.
I would like to illustrate this with three ideas:
The Single Market can no longer be run by Brussels on its own, it must become a joint venture where every European has a stake.
It will be driven by the needs of business, small and large, but it must also be powered by the needs of consumers.
And I firmly believe that we have moved on from the fortress Europe ideas of yesteryear, and must now embrace the idea of a Global Europe in the future.
Before I say a word on each of these ideas, let’s look at what the Treaty of Lisbon says. In the internal market chapter, it says the focus in future will be less on “progressively establishing” the internal market, as was the case in earlier Treaties, and more about establishing and ensuring the functioning of the internal market.
Firstly, the phase of “progressive” establishment of a “common market” is over. In our fast moving world, the luxury of long timetables before any EU actions can be achieved is a thing of the past. When targeted actions are necessary because of developments in the market, we just cannot afford to waste years toing and froing in Brussels before they are agreed.
Secondly, the new Treaty asks us to ensure the functioning of what has been laid down in law. And that goes way beyond what can be done in Brussels alone. I am thinking of course in the first place of the role of the Member States and their Regions. They have to translate the rules into their national laws, they have to apply these laws, and they have to enforce them where necessary. On some of this, we are making good progress. Just read our latest Scoreboard and you can see that a transposition deficit as low as 1% by 2009 is a realistic prospect. We have come a long way since the last enlargement.
But we also now know that the Single Market, by definition, can never be “completed”. It needs constant adaptation, constant change, constant modernisation. This cannot and must not be driven solely by Brussels. Brussels is a player, but not the player. This, Ladies and Gentlemen, is one of the main messages of the Commission’s recent Single Market Review.
Implementing modern Single Market policy – such as the Services Directive or the Goods package – can be complex. Member States have to set up administrative structures – points of single contact for example. They have to screen national laws. Thousands of local authorities have to apply these directives. Modern Single Market policy reaches deeply into the fabric of our public administrations and our economy. And we are doing all we can to accompany this process, working intensely with our colleagues in all the capitals. So, as announced in the Single Market Review, we have set up a working group with all Member States to agree on common guidelines on a “partnership approach” and to exchange best practices in implementing the Single Market. This is what we call making the Single Market “more de-centralised and more network-based”.
A successful Single Market is not a market solely for business – it is, of course, also for consumers. And that means consumers both knowing and using their rights, and refusing to accept artificial barriers to those rights. It means competitive retail markets that give consumers maximum choice and the best quality at the lowest prices.
The main goal of the Single Market Review is to put consumers – as well as small and medium sized enterprises – at the centre of Single Market policy. I would like to take a moment to mention some of the Review’s initiatives we’ve got coming through in 2008 and beyond.
I have launched a package of initiatives to make retail financial markets work better for consumers. For instance, we have asked industry to come up with a code of conduct to facilitate switching bank accounts between different banks in the same Member State. We have also made it clear to industry that there should be no discrimination against customers on the basis of nationality or residence when they go to open bank accounts cross-border. This should not necessarily mean a heavy hand or legislation. I hope that by working with the banking and insurance industry and with consumers we can get results. Just as I am as determined to make the newly adopted postal directive work in favour of consumers.
Meanwhile, my colleague Meglena Kuneva is looking into how the patchwork of consumer protection laws in Europe can be modernised and made more coherent. Businesses need a level playing field and consumers deserve more reliable protection against unfair practices. And Ms Kuneva, together with my colleague Neelie Kroes, is also looking at how to strengthen consumer redress.
As I just mentioned, small and medium-sized firms are also at the heart of our programme for this year. It is incredible to think, that if only half of Europe’s 23 million SMEs could develop so as to employ just one extra person, that would mean 11.5 million extra jobs. That is full employment in the EU. To allow SMEs to concentrate even more on what their job is – to do business, not to fill in forms – and to gain access to markets in other countries, the Commission will introduce two major initiatives in the forthcoming months: a European Private Company Statute and a Small Business Act.
The first will provide smaller companies, which could not benefit from the European Public Company Statute, with a tailor-made legal form allowing them to carry out their business according to one set of corporate rules across the EU. And the Small Business Act will bring together various SME-targeted measures, such as work on administrative burdens, or SME participation in funding programmes.
Important as those initiatives are, their benefits will only trickle down to citizens and businesses if they know their Single Market rights. Unfortunately we cannot take this for granted. 7 out of 10 citizens have never heard of any of the already existing information, assistance and problem-solving services at EU level. So it is essential that the Single Market is better communicated. We are taking concrete measures to do this.
Since last November, we have already set up on our website an “Interactive Information Service”, responding to questions on the application of Community law to so-called “services of general interest”.
And in a few weeks time, all information and assistance services such as SOLVIT and others will be accessible through a simplified Single Gateway.
The final subject I wanted to touch on this morning is my vision of the imperative to move from a ‘fortress Europe’ to a ‘Global Europe’ mentality.
Since the 1990s, the EU and its environment have changed beyond recognition. Its membership has more than doubled, we are now 27 countries, not forgetting the 3 EFTA countries, that take part in the Single Market. The shift from a manufacturing economy towards a services economy has changed the way we create wealth and jobs in Europe. Today, almost 70% of EU’s gross domestic product and 96% of the new jobs come from the services sector.
Arguably the biggest change compared to the vision of the authors of the 1985 White paper is the impact of globalisation. The internal market project was, in its origins, turned inwards, as the term “internal” indicates. It was first of all a response to the economic turmoils of the 1970s. If we created a larger home market, the argument went, all members would benefit. But the world beyond Europe played little or no role in these considerations. Some even accused the EU of building up a sort of “fortress Europe” mentality.
This situation has changed dramatically over the last decade. Whether we like it or not, the European economy is now inextricably connected to global developments – the sub-prime crisis and its consequences on both sides of the Atlantic is a good, if bitter, example of that.
We should not fear globalisation. We should grasp it, shape it and take the lead. Europe is not only well positioned to take advantage of an ever more globalised economy, but its internal market is its trump card.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
this vision of our Single Market Review is not mine alone. It is shared by many others, including all the members of the European Council, who on March 14th, endorsed its key ideas and initiatives. The Summit also undertook to revisit work on the Review in March of each year.
That is why the Single Market Task Force that you are about to set up in the EPC is particularly relevant and timely. I very much look forward to the results, and would be more than happy to come back in early 2009 to discuss its findings with you. It also goes without saying that my services are at your disposal throughout the period of your work.
I will finish my opening remarks to this Policy Dialogue with a few words from the Conclusions of the 1985 White Paper:
“Europe” it said, “stands at the crossroads. We either go ahead – with resolution and determination – or we drop back into mediocrity.”
This is as relevant today as it was 23 years ago. The context, however, has changed.
Globalisation has changed us.
Enlargement from 10 to 27 has changed us.
And the need for more participative governance in the EU has changed us.
In summary, Ladies and Gentlemen, I believe the ethos of the Single Market is changing for the better, changing in tandem with the times we live in and preparing for the challenges of tomorrow’s world.
Thank you very much.