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EU 20 Years of Single Market: The People’s Perspective


In October 2012, the EU celebrates the 20th anniversary of the Single Market, which was always one of the most important contributing pillars of European integration. It’s a good occasion to reflect on the past and the future of the Single Market and about why and how we can or cannot use the advantages of the EU’s free liberalised market.

Source: European Commission.

It’s getting better

At the beginning, there was the European Coal and Steel Community, and the idea of a Single Market was the catalyst for integration. The first round of participating countries found this platform mutually beneficial to integrate some of their industries and powers. The big challenge was dealt with very successfully, and the countries of the enlarged union found more and more territories where integration, cooperation and free liberalised markets contributed to and facilitated their competitiveness and growth. If two parties (even former enemies) find a good platform which provides mutual advantages, then cooperation and friendship starts very fast. Perhaps this was the most important driving force for European integration.

But even after 20 successful years there are still many barriers to a fully functioning Single Market. What needs to be done to make the Single Market fully operational? Naturally, we need to sort out problems which citizens and businesses face. But it is still not so simple, because the EU is not one country and it doesn’t speak with one voice.

After the new Single Market Act (13 April 2011) has been applied and  related proposals are finally adopted and implemented, the more than 21 million businesses and 500 millions consumers in Europe will benefit from a better-functioning Single Market for venture capital, simpler accounting requirements and cheaper access to patent protection across Europe.

On the left: Jose Manuel Barroso, President of the EC and  Michel Barnier, Member of the EC in charge of Internal Market and Services, participate at the conference " Single Market: Time to act ". Source: European Commission. Ref: P-018315 /00-03 Date: 08/02/2011 Location: Brussels - EC/Charlemagne

On the left: Jose Manuel Barroso, President of the EC and Michel Barnier, Member of the EC in charge of Internal Market and Services, participate at the conference " Single Market: Time to act ". Source: European Commission. Ref: P-018315 /00-03 Date: 08/02/2011 Location: Brussels – EC/Charlemagne

It will be easier for citizens to get their qualifications recognised in another Member State, as well as to get a job. It will also be easier for goods to circulate and service providers to operate across borders, thanks to new standardisation  aimed at removing persistent and unjustified restrictions to the provision of services. We will finally be able to take advantage of the opportunities offered by the Digital Single Market and a boost in e-commerce too.

The Difficulties and Problems of the Single Market

The European Commission summarised the 20 main concerns of EU citizens in its Single Market Snapshot:

  • Social security.
  • Patients’ rights in cross-border healthcare.
  • Residence cards for non-EU family members of an EU citizen.
  • Professionals who have difficulties getting their qualifications recognised in another Member State.
  • Workers who face discriminatory employment practices.
  • Tax barriers for cross-border workers and employers.
  • Opening a bank account abroad.
  • Students facing discrimination regarding recognition of diplomas, fees, and financial support.
  • Cross-border pension and inheritance tax issues.
  • Cross-border car registration and tax issues.
  • Passenger rights.
  • Complex and costly banking and financial services.
  • Consumers’ confidence in online shopping.
  • The best choice and price for of the energy supply.
  • Quality and price of internet and telephony services.
  • Businesses being discouraged from participating in foreign public tenders.
  • Businesses’ access to finance.
  • Burdensome rules and procedures preventing entrepreneurs and investors from doing business in another country.
  • VAT cross-border refund procedures.
  • Protection of intellectual property rights and patent protection.

These are all well-known complex issues that many people are facing daily. They must be solved if we are to live in a free, united Europe. Although the EU has done a lot to address many of these difficulties, it is still not united enough, especially given the current crisis.

Although great progress has been achieved in the last 20 years, the Single Market is still not performing to its full potential. There’s still a lot of things to do to ensure freedom, equal rights and transparency for its citizens and businesses.

The 20th anniversary provides the framework for a range of activities taking place in all Member States, centred on the Single Market Week for New Growth on 15-20 October 2012. These activities focus on three objectives: Recalling the achievements of the 20 years of the Single Market; Presenting and discussing new initiatives to stimulate growth in the Single Market; Mobilising the views and expectations of young adults about the Single Market.

The main interactive event in the European Parliament (Brussels) on 15 October was a mix of debates, video presentations, discussion rounds, quizzes, and the award ceremony for the “Generation 1992″ competition (more details can be found here and here) with the aim of providing input for future policy. A key focal point of the event was on the generation of 20-year-olds, who were born in the year when the Single Market came into being and who do not remember Europe as it was before the Single Market. This theme is reflected in this short film:

Events are organised on a national level in the EU Member States for the days and weeks following 15 October. Their aim is to bring together citizens, businesses and public organisations to examine and discuss the state of the Single Market in their national contexts.

20 years of the single market. Infographics via European Union 2012 – European Parliament under Creative Commons license.

Making the Single Market work better: boosting Europe’s potential for growth
Single Market Act: Together for new growth
Video: Single Market Week from on Vimeo.

Clip to Evernote

About The Author(s)

Laszlo Keki


I am from Hungary (EU). Writing about today's EU and global political, social, economical issues, environmental challenges, technology, climate change and environmental protection. Trying to understand the role and directions of UN and possibilities in contribution global climate change, environmental protection and sustainability agreements. Diplomas: General Chemistry Technology, Communication, Marketing. International Relations Job: international trading. I am living near Budapest in a small peaceful, green village. Love: life, gardens, arts, water, forests, good climate, good food, clean water, clean air, journalism, sciences, modern technology, people, history and the social studies.

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