President. − The next item is the statement by the Commission on the Single Market Forum.
John Dalli, Member of the Commission. − Mr President, the economic and financial crisis that we are facing can sometimes cause us to forget about its human impact. It is therefore right for us to take a couple of steps back to consider the ultimate objective of all our reforms: the social and economic wellbeing of our fellow citizens.
We must accept this responsibility for our fellow citizens, who are also consumers, workers, taxpayers and savers; for our companies, whether they be small, medium-sized or large; and finally, for our countries and their regional and local authorities.
All these players are the first to feel the specific consequences of the current shocks, which are compounding existing problems with the single market. We must show them that the single market can give rise to concrete benefits. That is why we organised the Single Market Forum (SIMFO) in Krakow in early October, in partnership with you at the Parliament and the Polish Presidency. The Forum was attended by over 1 000 people during the discussions and almost 10 000 at the Single Market Fair held at the same time. At this point I would like to thank Róza Thun, Louis Grech, Malcolm Harbour and Silvu Buşoi, whose participation in the commitment of Parliament made SIMFO such a success.
The Forum made it possible to bring together all players in the single market. It was a great success, from which we can draw two conclusions. It has enabled us to back up our political discussions with concrete examples, which are also calls to take action to improve the lot of the people of Europe during this period of crisis and allow us to see our choices in relation to their real needs. It has enabled us to directly communicate the reforms that we are undertaking. We must constantly strive to disseminate information about our initiatives, from the time when they are discussed to their implementation.
The comments that were collected reflected the results of the survey concerning the 20 main concerns of European citizens in their day-to-day lives. The study has reaffirmed the need for citizens and companies to be better informed, and for the rules of the internal market to be applied more effectively with regard to health, social security, the recognition of professional qualifications, online purchasing, public procurement and the protection of intellectual property between countries, in particular.
We have now noted the Krakow Declaration drafted by the participants in the Forum, and we undertake to do what it has called for by taking the measures determined in connection with the Single Market Act.
We can identify three main courses of action:
Firstly, make the single market a safer place on a daily basis for the citizens of Europe. We want citizens to have confidence in the single market and to know their rights when making a purchase in another country or on the internet, or moving within the EU for personal or professional reasons.
We therefore intend to simplify mutual qualification recognition procedures in order to encourage mobility on the part of our fellow citizens in the internal market and ensure that their aims are not stymied by administrative barriers; we will propose reinforcing legislation concerning the posting of workers and clarifying the balance that must be struck between economic freedoms and fundamental rights; and we intend to enable consumers to make greater use of the single market.
Yesterday the Commission approved a package of measures aimed at ensuring that European consumers who buy goods and services (online or offline, in their country or in another Member State) have access to alternative dispute resolution mechanisms to solve their disputes with traders, without necessarily having to go to court. Moreover, with regard to e-commerce, we need to de-mystify this new form of consumption and make it safer, also for our companies, because it is still under-used to a very significant extent.
Secondly, make the economy of the internal market more dynamic by ensuring full implementation of the Services Directive and improving the distribution channels for goods in Europe; and by addressing businesspeople directly and improving the conditions in which they must operate in order to increase their competitiveness in a more competitive market and reduce their administrative burden.
There are a number of specific measures intended to achieve this: the creation of a single patent, which is a major milestone in supporting creativity and innovation in Europe, and other measures to increase the observance of intellectual property rights; an action plan for SMEs, to increase their access to funding in the form of venture capital, on the stock market and through bank loans; simplification of accounting rules; and simplification of the rules for public procurement.
Thirdly, support and facilitate public action. We are going to review the directives on public procurement in order to make the lives of public and private operators easier and increase the integration of social and environmental issues and issues relating to project innovation. We are also going to fill the legal void currently surrounding the procurement of services in Europe in order to improve the relationship between contracting authorities and private contractors, both when a contract is put out for tender and throughout its implementation.
Finally, we aim to renew our relationships with third parties and to introduce greater reciprocity into public procurement in particular.
We have placed all these measures within the framework of the Single Market Act and we must ensure their implementation. 2012 will be a crucial year for the delivery of these reforms. It will be a milestone in our project to relaunch the single market on the 20th anniversary of its creation. To turn this celebration into an exciting event, we intend to work with all the players on the single market to organise a Single Market Week focusing on new growth, along the lines set out in the Krakow Declaration. During this week, local events will be organised in each Member State and a big event will be held in Brussels.
I am counting on your participation to enable us to make the 20th anniversary of the single market a success for everyone.
Andreas Schwab, on behalf of the PPE Group. – (DE) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, as Commissioner Dalli has already mentioned, we had more than 1 000 participants at the Single Market Forum in Kraków on 3 and 4 October. We had the opportunity to spend two whole days in a small town or medium-sized city outside of Brussels discussing a whole spectrum of topical issues relating to the single market and consumers. That has certainly been beneficial for the content of forthcoming legislative proposals.
It has shown that, in this Parliament, we are in agreement across the groups on a large number of issues, that we want to strengthen consumer rights in the area of alternative dispute resolution, that we need the unconditional strengthening of electronic commerce in the European Union in order to promote cross-border trade, and that we also want simplification in the area of public procurement. That has united us across all the groups. To a significant extent, it has shown that what Professor Monti stated in his paper for the President of the Commission – that the single market not only needs economic governance, but also single market governance, that is to say uniform regulations for all Member States and for single market participants alike – is fully supported in this House. I would therefore like to focus in particular on the conclusions of the Single Market Forum in Kraków.
The Polish Secretary of State expressly mentioned the fact that the Member States were prepared to accept more regulations if they would benefit the single market. On behalf of my group, the Group of the European People’s Party (Christian Democrats), I would like to repeat once again that, when it comes to drawing up the Single Market Act, we believe it is particularly important for the Commission to look closely at whether it would be able to put as many of the proposals together in the form of one regulation.
The second aspect relates to the infringement proceedings, which need to be dealt with more quickly. The Commission is heading in the right direction in this regard, however.
Lastly, of course, we absolutely must promote a reduction in red tape for small and medium-sized enterprises.
Evelyne Gebhardt, on behalf of the S&D Group. – (DE) Mr President, Commissioner, the forum in Kraków really was a great success. This needs to be repeated, because good initiatives really ought to be continued. In this connection, I would like once again to thank Mr Grech, who as we know had the original idea that we should present the 20 most important concerns of citizens at such a forum. That was the key element of what we did, namely to place the concerns of citizens at the forefront so that they can see that the single market is not something abstract, but something that will actually provide them with added value.
It concerned such diverse issues as the recognition of professional qualifications, the opportunity for young people to open a bank account in another Member State – which is sometimes very difficult – legal certainty in connection with online shopping, the Posting of Workers Directive, which urgently needs to be updated and amended, the strengthening of small and medium-sized enterprises and so on. Many subjects were discussed and the relevant problems highlighted.
Commissioner, in future we need to put greater emphasis on the solutions on offer. In this regard, we await everything that you as the Commission have promised for next year, and Parliament and my group, the Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament, will monitor what you present to us with a very critical, but positive eye.
Cristian Silviu Buşoi, on behalf of the ALDE Group. – Mr President, as we have pointed out on several occasions, the relaunch of the Single Market is not only the remit of the European institutions. The solutions have to emerge from a broader dialogue with all relevant stakeholders: consumers, enterprises, national authorities, social partners, judges and so on.
This was the aim of the Single Market Forum in Krakow and it was a success. As a member of the Internal Market and Consumer Protection Committee, I must say that participation in the Forum was a very valuable experience. The participants engaged in a very constructive dialogue, which gave us a useful insight into what they consider to be the priorities for the future development of the single market.
There is one thing that came out of the Forum which I consider to be extremely important. The majority of citizens, and sometimes even some of us, consider the single market legislation to be very technical. Sometimes, this is very true, but I was very happy to see that the Forum attracted citizens who came to tell their own stories in relation to the single market. This clearly shows that the single market is firstly about citizens, about normal people who unfortunately experience difficulties in enjoying their rights.
I would like to thank the Polish Presidency for their full commitment to the single market and for taking the Krakow Declaration to the Competitiveness Council. Now, if this Forum is to make any difference, we – and here I mean the Commission, the Council and the European Parliament – need to prove that we take into account the priorities outlined in the Krakow Declaration and that we have the political will to come up with efficient solutions and also to implement them. We have to understand that legislation cannot be efficient without correct and timely implementation at the national level.
I strongly believe that the Single Market Forum is an excellent initiative that ought to be continued in future, and that this is the way forward in order to progressively eliminate the remaining barriers and to bring our citizens closer to the single market. This is why I firmly support the idea of setting up a Single Market Forum online, which could be a permanent platform for dialogue with all stakeholders. I also believe that next year we should mark the 20th anniversary of the single market by organising decentralised events in all Member States, as was already proposed.
Last but not least, I would like to thank all those who worked hard for the organisation of the Single Market Forum. I want to congratulate the Commission, especially Commissioner Dalli and Commissioner Barnier, Parliament and the Polish Presidency and all the citizens, enterprises, NGOs and other stakeholders who contributed to the success of this first Single Market Forum.
Malcolm Harbour, on behalf of the ECR Group. – Mr President, as Chairman of the Committee I want first of all to particularly thank both Commissioner Dalli who participated energetically in the Forum and made the closing speech, and also Commissioner Barnier who I know tonight is in Malta in his campaign to get round every single Member State and discuss the single market. I am sure that Louis Grech is with him as well.
The lessons which are clearly apparent from the success of the Single Market Forum – and I think that everyone believes it was a great success – are the fact that completing the single market is fundamentally an exercise in partnership and teamwork. It is not something which can be delivered by technical regulation from Brussels, as Cristian Buşoi said. It is not something that can be delivered by one Commissioner on his own. Neither is it something which can be delivered by Member States working on their own, because the lessons about making the single market work are that Member States have to work much more closely together and to exchange information to look after consumers better; to have the sort of dispute resolution system on line that you, Commissioner, have just proposed.
That became clearly apparent from the way in which we worked together to promote this Forum. It is a shame that the Presidency is not here, because the Polish Presidency played an absolutely crucial role in this. They put it at the top of their priorities and it is good, as a number of colleagues have said, that they reported back to the Summit about it. Indeed, the completion of the Single Market Act was the top item at the Growth Summit on 23 October. I think that the energy behind that and behind the Single Market Forum contributed to this.
My concluding point is this. The biggest single issue that remained for me in participating in all the discussions with people who are energetic and enthusiastic about the Single Market, is how little we are communicating the benefits, and particularly the opportunities, throughout the European Union, so thank you Commissioner, for your great work on the internet that is enabling my committee to get our information across to citizens about the Single Market.
Kyriacos Triantaphyllides, on behalf of the GUE/NGL Group. – (EL) Mr President, the format for the integration of the single market will be crucial to the future of Europe. Europe needs to have an efficient single market, to adapt economic needs to the social needs of the market and to strengthen solidarity, to make it possible to implement individual and collective achievements and to contribute to sustainable growth. However, the Single Market Act does not appear, in our opinion, to respond to citizens’ present needs.
We want society to acquire its full and integrated right to put the general interest above the interests of the markets. We want to establish the social acquis whereby protection for citizens and the preservation of jobs and working conditions take precedence over the rules of competition. We need to prevent the further deterioration of social Europe.
Our alternative proposal is simple, easy and clearly formulated: social needs should come before profit. We want the whole of mankind to share in this alternative economic, social, political and cultural solution.
Róża Gräfin von Thun und Hohenstein (PPE). – (PL) Mr President, I would like to thank Mr Dalli for the kind words he addressed to those who were involved in that extremely important event. I would say it was the kind of event which inspires all those – I am thinking of the Single Market Forum in Krakow – who are working hard for barriers in the single market to be removed effectively, to continue the process of making the European Union more friendly to the citizens. The citizens, by which I mean consumers and business people taken together, because this group is a pool of talent for the European Union.
I would also like through you to thank Mr Barnier, who worked with us in organising the Forum, and I would also like to thank Ms Daly, Director of Directorate B of the European Commission’s Directorate-General for the Internal Market and Services, and the wonderful team of people about whom we have said too little but who in fact took upon themselves a huge part of the responsibility and the work.
It was a good experience. I agree with most or almost all of what has been said by those who have already spoken in this debate, and I agree, too, with the idea that we need to continue engaging in dialogue with society. The Krakow Declaration was an example of the kind of results which can be achieved. We should continue to achieve such results.
I would just like to ask you, Mr Dalli, about the source of the decision that the next Forum is to be held in Brussels. We have not discussed this yet. My understanding is that we make such decisions together: Parliament and the Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection. We also have some other very good suggestions, and we would like to ask you to discuss them with us. My last sentence, Mr President. Twenty years have passed ...
(The President cut off the speaker)
António Fernando Correia De Campos (S&D). – (PT) Mr President, the first single market forum – an idea resulting from the Grech report – took place in Krakow. It was rich in content, and the debate held by the Polish Presidency with European, national, regional and local authorities, and with civil society, was fruitful. We have a roadmap, set out in the Commission communication of 12 April, with the 12 levers. It needs to be passed into law, along with the strategy for the other 38 priorities identified in the Single Market Act.
Markets need confidence in order to exist. However, the confidence of the public and of consumers cannot be taken for granted: it needs to be stimulated and fed. The single market is not just an operation of buying and selling: it involves horizontal policies like health care, social and consumer protection, the right to work, the environment, and sustainable development.
The single market forum should, therefore, become a flagship event of the European Union, being held every year, with a diverse and increasingly participative audience.
Edvard Kožušník (ECR). - (CS) Mr President, in my opinion, the single market is the only tool that can support growth and employment in Europe. The single market has its own story, of course - and has had for more than 20 years - and the Single Market Forum, which took place in Warsaw, also has its own story. It began as an idea of Louis Grech, but I personally encountered it in a debate attended by Róża Gräfin von Thun und Hohenstein and Mario Monti. At this point, I think we should thank not only the Commission, but also all of the colleagues on our Committee, as I believe this has been a very successful forum. Its success was confirmed by the fact that Róża Gräfin von Thun und Hohenstein yesterday won an award as the best MEP in relation to the Committee on the Internal Market. I would hereby like to congratulate her on behalf of my other colleagues.
Elena Băsescu (PPE). – (RO) Mr President, the single market has a crucial role to play in Europe’s recovery from economic stagnation during the current crisis. At the same time, effective monitoring when it comes to implementing the single market regulations is a prerequisite for its success. Member States must step up their efforts to transpose EU regulations. According to the latest Internal Market Scoreboard, my country features among the 10 states which have improved their results in terms of implementing European legislation. Romania is placed fourth in this area, with an average delay of 2.8 months in transposing legislation after the deadline expires.
It is important that the EU encourages cooperation between European, national, regional and local officials in order to make the implementation of European regulations more efficient.
Silvia-Adriana Ţicău (S&D). – (RO) Mr President, the consolidation of the single market requires worker mobility and recognition of professional qualifications, and the development of e-commerce and of a European network of points of single contact. With the aim of recognising professional qualifications, I support the forum’s proposal for having a European professional card, which would facilitate transnational mobility for workers within the European Union and would simplify the procedures for recognising professional qualifications. Social partners, especially the trade unions, play an important role in protecting posted workers and in respecting their rights.
With regard to the development of e-commerce, the confidence of both consumers and businesses, especially SMEs, needs to be strengthened in the use of electronic media. As for the development of the digital single market, we await with interest the proposals from the Commission on the reciprocal recognition of electronic signatures and electronic identity. We also feel it is necessary to update European personal data protection legislation.
Ildikó Gáll-Pelcz (PPE). – (HU) Mr President, Commissioner, forums play a key part in information exchange and cooperation, whereas the single market plays a key part in the achievement of growth and employment objectives. The European Parliament had a crucial role in the adoption of the Directive and the drafting of the package of measures, and also in ensuring that we can reach an agreement by the end of next year. However, it is important to ensure that the short term effects of this agreement can also be felt.
The economic benefit is considerable, and we cannot surrender it. However, this requires that the Member States fully implement all elements of the Directive, from Points of Single Contact to information provision. Meanwhile we must not forget about SMEs either. I am convinced that so far SMEs have not been winners of the internal market. We must therefore make efforts to reduce burdens resulting from regulation. The Commission did in fact make a commitment to prepare an impact study. We are looking forward to this study.
Czesław Adam Siekierski (PPE). – (PL) Mr President, one of the challenges for Europe at a time of financial and economic crisis is to support the single market, which is the basis for success in a united Europe. It should be remembered that in April this year the Commission presented a package of proposals intended to improve the single market, the Single Market Act drafted by the Commissioner for the Internal Market and Services, Mr Barnier. The act comprises a series of schemes, whose adoption by the end of 2012 is intended to improve the function of the single market, delivering benefits for businesses, employees and consumers. Almost 20 years have passed since the introduction of the internal market based on the four freedoms – the free movement of people, goods, services and capital. However, the potential for growth still has not been fully achieved. There is therefore no doubt that these measures are essential for full use to be made of the single market, which is the main strength of the European economy.
Othmar Karas (PPE). – (DE) Mr President, I would like to start by congratulating Ms von Thun und Hohenstein most sincerely on the first Single Market Forum. This must become a permanent institution and be made into a European Union tradition, the driving force of the single market.
The single market is not yet complete. The four freedoms have not yet been implemented. The single market represents the growth and employment potential of the European Union. We need only to implement what we have committed ourselves to implement – we do not need to create any new regulations; we simply need to remove barriers. Therefore, I would also say that we need to do everything we can to make sure that the Member States fully implement all of the legislation that we adopt. They are lagging behind. The Single Market Forum must be an annual mirror for revealing failings and for setting priorities and objectives.
John Dalli, Member of the Commission. − Mr President, the discussions that have just been completed are very important in the realisation of our commitment to relaunching the single market and responding proactively to the crisis we are now facing.
The solution of the crisis depends on an effective single market which, in turn, depends on innovative business and empowered consumers. As I said in my introductory comments, we are emphasising the social aspect of the single market because we cannot divorce the consumer from the worker, as participants in the single market. I think the objective of what we are doing here is the advancement of the citizens of Europe. The advancement is not achieved through a record of statistics but in a real, actual quality of life that we can deliver.
Your determination will provide solid political support for the results of the single market. I completely agree with Mr Harbour when he says that this is a collaborative effort. We have to move together. Member States, Parliament, Commission, consumers, businesses; everybody has to move together to make this single market a reality.
I can vouch that in the Commission we are 15 Commissioners who have committed to delivering the global act encompassing several policy areas. We expect the same commitment from the European Parliament with a fast track for the SME agenda.
It will encourage us to continue to organise future events along the lines and in the spirit of the Forum. The Forum that took place in Krakow is not the first and last forum that will be organised. We believe that its success indicates to us the importance of developing this activity on a permanent basis to try to deliver it in a series of similar events. At this stage we cannot determine the exact frequency at which it will happen and, in answer to Ms Thun und Hohenstein, we have not yet determined the location of the next forum or activity that will take place. There were some discussions but no decisions have been taken and everything is still being discussed.
As we have said, as this is a collective effort there should also be collective dialogue in elaborating the details. I believe that we must continue to build on what we have achieved so far. These are all steps in the right direction in order to achieve what we have set out to do – a very active single market.
Róża Gräfin von Thun und Hohenstein (PPE). – (PL) Mr President, in the meantime the Commissioner has in fact answered the question which I wanted to finish because my last speech was a little too long, but I would like to say something about the venue to which he has just referred. I concur with what the Commissioner said about a great many events being held in Brussels. One of the strengths of the recent Forum was the fact that it took place away from Brussels. The consultations which were held afforded a real opportunity to meet normal citizens of the European Union, and this was good both for the officials who met people with whom they do not have everyday contact and for the 10 000 citizens who visited the information tent – citizens who benefit from the single market. So let us avoid holding such meetings in Brussels.
(The President cut off the speaker)
President. − To wind up the debate, a motion for a resolution(1) has been tabled by five groups under Rule 110(2) of the Rules of Procedure.
The debate is closed.
The vote will take place on Thursday, 1 December at 12.00.
Written statements (Rule 149)
Louis Grech (S&D), in writing. – The euro and the single market are the tangible raisons d’être for the EU. The problems and fragmentation besetting the euro and the single market ultimately mean less Europe, and less of the benefits that Europe offers citizens. It is past time that the Member States decide whether they want to proceed with the integration necessary to create jobs and growth within a social, competitive market economy. European integration is not irreversible. We must act immediately to build a holistic, long-term solution to the clear shortcomings of the euro and the single market. The Single Market Forum, held this November, represented a valuable step towards building the necessary consensus on the direction of the single market. Citizens, consumer organisations and SMEs made quite clear that there are substantial gaps between what they expect from the market and what they experience in practice. At the Forum, I called on the Commission to shift from phase one (identifying sources of frustration) to phase two (implementing the necessary solutions to the market’s gaps). Now we must also examine the possibility of holding annual forums in each Member State, whereby the experiences of citizens can feed into a single biannual European Single Market Forum.
Olga Sehnalová (S&D), in writing. - (CS) The Single Market Forum, which was held in the Polish town of Kraków this year, was a landmark event. It allowed a truly comprehensive debate on the single market to take place for the first time. I am pleased that, in addition to the usual participants of such meetings, the Forum also saw participation of the wider public, and that European citizens had a unique opportunity to talk about their expectations and current obstacles to the functioning of the single market. I hope that the Forum will be the first in a long series of meetings on similar topics, and that others will follow in future years. With regard to the evolution of the single market, I consider the intensification of the debate with the wider public to be of key importance. I therefore welcome the fact that the resolution adopted includes a call to the Commission and the Member States to involve the public more in the evolution of the single market. The appeal for accessible public consultations in all official languages of the EU - and for them to be more intelligible - is without doubt appropriate. The statistics clearly show that their potential is under-exploited. Perhaps this call will finally be heard by the Commission, and taken into account. We must enable the public to take a more active role at European level. This can only help the successful functioning of the single market, which is something we all want to see.