The EU is this year celebrating 20 years of the single market that makes it possible for goods, people, services and capital to move freely within the EU. What has been achieved and how can the potential of the single market be better exploited? We asked Karl von Wogau, driving force behind a group of MEPs dedicated to tearing down trade barriers between member states, and Romanian Liberal-Democrat Christian Buşoi, member of the internal market committee.
The single market has helped to create nearly 2.8 million new jobs over the years, according to the European Commission.
Mr von Wogau, who was a German MEP between 1979 and 2009, said the single market has proved to be a great boost to European companies: "The single market was created step by step by tearing down barriers between member states. The most important step was to physically open the borders between the member states because this was visible to everybody. Today a small producer of an innovative product has access to the entire internal market of 500 million consumers. This improves the competitiveness of European companies dramatically."
Mr Buşoi praised the impact the single market has had on consumers: "The single market means a wider range of products and services for consumers. In the new member states it has also brought higher quality and safety standards. The single market has strengthened the bargaining power of the EU at the WTO as well. It also helped member states to mitigate the effects of the economic and financial crisis."
Although the single market has proved to be a great success, it does not mean there are no challenges left. Mr von Wogau said: "Stabilising the euro is one of the big tasks today, as a common currency is a necessary part of the single market. We do not have a single market for security and security products yet. It is a field where the internal market should be developed in the future. Another real challenge is to improve the protection of the external borders."
Mr Buşoi also identified a number of issues: "We have to modernise the legal framework for the recognition of professional qualifications, simplify social security procedures, eliminate tax barriers and other practical obstacles that may discourage citizens from mobility. Other key aspects are creating a better environment for SMEs, building the online single market and stimulating e-commerce. I think that most of this can be realised if there is sufficient political will."
Because of the 20th anniversary of the single market, there are several EU projects this year to raise awareness of its opportunities. One of them is Generation 1992, in which young people tell about their experiences with mobility within Europe. The Commission will present this programme to the Parliament's internal market committee on 26 April.
1986: the EU adopts the Single European Act
1986–1992: the EU adopts the necessary legislation to open closed national markets and facilitate cross-border business within the EU
1 January 1993: the single market becomes a reality