Increasing the competitiveness of the EU economy, improving the choice for consumers
The free movement of goods and services we buy and sell, the free movement of capital and the free movement of people inside the borders of the European Union - this single market with 500 million citizens offers vast choice to consumers and provides a major opportunity to grow and create jobs in small and medium-sized enterprises as well as large companies across the 28 Member States.
The EPP Group has been arguing for the relaunch of the European Single Market as a key engine for growth, competitiveness and jobs in Europe. The single market is the largest common economic space without barriers in the industrialised world. Experience shows that the single market works: from the 1980s there was a substantial increase in trade and investment in the EU over the two following decades - 2.2 per cent were added to overall economic activities (GDP) in the EU and an extra 2.8 million people were employed.
Yet despite considerable success, the single market is far from complete, and not fully adhering to existing rules often leaves its full potential unexploited.
1. Pressure for a relaunch of the single market
With the EPP in the driving seat, the European Parliament called for a new initiative to bridge the gaps in the single market and to remove significant legal, fiscal, administrative or linguistic barriers still remaining.
In response to the Parliament’s request, between April 2011 and October 2012, the European Commission presented two packages (Single Market Act I and Single Market Act II) with measures to exploit the untapped potential of the single market, notably in the digital economy, which could simplify business operation in many sectors, especially for SMEs, and promote cross-border e-commerce.
2. Creating new opportunities for business and citizens by improving the functioning of the single market
The EPP Group has pushed for enhanced action to address core issues in order to make the single market work better:
- Better implementation and enforcement of single market rules. Single market rules are not implemented in a satisfactory way, which keeps enterprises and consumers from reaping its full benefits. For instance, only one third of the potential of the Services Directive has been unleashed.
- Rapid development of the digital single market. The EPP Group has strongly supported the key actions to complete the digital single market proposed in the Single Market Act II, especially as a fully-developed digital single market could boost activity - for instance by increasing online trade. A full-blown digital single market could increase EU GDP by four per cent and offer a wider choice with more competitive prices to consumers. Boosting the digital economy will also facilitate the transformation of the EU into a knowledge economy and create highly-skilled jobs.
- Better recognition of professional qualifications across Europe: For many professionals, having their professional qualifications recognised at European level has often represented a real obstacle to their mobility. Thanks to new rules on the recognition of professional qualifications between EU Member States adopted in October 2013, citizens will be able to move easily to another country for work. The main new element is the creation of a professional card. On a voluntary basis, interested professionals can now take advantage of this e-certificate, which will allow them to benefit from recognition procedures that are faster, simpler and more efficient.
- A European patent and better protection of intellectual property rights for more economic growth: The EPP Group has been at the forefront in the move to improve intellectual protection regimes and constantly pushed for the adoption of a European patent. The European patent system will make the filing of patents easier and up to 80 per cent cheaper, thus yielding companies savings of around 50 million euro per year. In addition, a single set of rules for data protection could save 2.3 billion euro and create numerous incentives to enhance cross-border business.
- Further progress in opening public procurement: Adopted in December 2012, the new rules on public procurement set important milestones, especially for SMEs, as they will now be able to participate more easily in Europe-wide public tenders. The European procurement passport for SMEs, valid for one year, will considerably reduce bureaucratic procedures for these companies. This reform will be a powerful tool for growth, as tenders represent 19 per cent of the total expenditure of goods and services in the EU.
- Promoting growth-enhancing investments: The EPP secured the funding for two new programmes: COSME - targeted at small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and Horizon 2020, which is the biggest research and development programme in the world. Moreover, the greater use of innovative financial instruments, such as project bonds or support from the European Investment Bank (EIB) for SME financing, are additional levers to attract private investors.
- Further reduction of red tape: The EPP has set a target for a reduction of 25 per cent of bureaucratic burdens by 2015. An important step forward was achieved thanks to constant pressure by the EPP: the Commission must carry out a mandatory SME test to prevent new legislative proposals resulting in additional administrative costs for business.
3. Better governance for the single market
- Legislative impact: The EPP is committed to better evaluating the impact of legislation. For this purpose, the EPP Group has obtained regular monitoring of legislation in Member States and continues to evaluate the situation in the Member States regarding free movement in the single market.
- Toolkits for citizens and businesses: The EPP Group was also at the forefront in providing businesses and citizens with the necessary support instruments for legal disputes and other proceedings associated with the single market.