The European single market, widely considered as one of the EU’s greatest achievements, celebrates its 25th anniversary this year.
The original idea behind the single market was to create a single European economic area where goods, capital, services and labour can move freely, which is sometimes referred to as the four freedoms.
Today the European single market is the largest barrier-free, economic area in the world, encompassing more than 500 million citizens with a gross domestic product of about €13 trillion. For consumers this means a greater variety of products and lower prices, while it’s estimated that the single market has also created 2.8 million jobs.
“From the Nordic lights to the Mediterranean sun, we have freedom of movement, we have freedom of movement for people, goods, services and money. We’re the biggest integrated market in the world,” said Swedish EPP member Anna Maria Corazza Bildt, who’s the vice-chair of Parliament's internal market committee.
In the 1980s, the common market, established by the Treaty of Rome in 1957, still hadn’t been completed due to a lack of decision-making structures. The European Commission therefore decided to work towards relaunching the common market by identifying 300 measures that had to be addressed for it to be completed and focused on having minimum standards rather than full harmonisation. The EU’s single market as we know it entered into force on 1 January 1993.
The reach of the single market today goes beyond the 28 EU member states: Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway have access through their European Economic Area (EEA) agreement and Switzerland through bilateral agreements, while a few other countries have access to selected sectors.
However, the development of the single market isn't over yet. For example, the EU is currently trying to improve the digital area of the single market by modernising e-commerce, intellectual property rights, parcel delivery, the collaborative economy and by setting targets for ICT standards. This would boost the EU's economy by €415 billion a year and create hundreds of thousands of new jobs, according to European Commission estimates.
“The free movement of data, which is part of all the other free movements, is going to really create enormous benefits to our citizens and it is the digital entrepreneurship that is going to give a lot of solutions to people’s problems if we allow, enable and facilitate this free movement,” said Bildt.