Single Market Act II marks 'new chapter' for EU
by Daniel Mason
The European Commission had adopted a Single Market Act II that it says will "open new paths towards growth, employment and social cohesion" by making it easier for people and businesses to operate across the continent.
Described by internal market and services commissioner Michel Barnier as a "call to us, policy-makers, to get down to business, focus minds and deliver", it follows the European Union executive's previous single market act in April last year, and forms part of its push to realise a "vision of a highly competitive social market economy".
The Single Market Act II sets out 12 key policies that are "designed to generate real effects on the ground and make citizens and businesses confident to use the single market to their advantage", the document says. They are split into four sections: developing fully integrated networks, fostering cross-border mobility of citizens and businesses, supporting the digital economy, and strengthening entrepreneurship, cohesion and consumer confidence.
"A lot has been achieved" by the single market but its development is a "continuous exercise", the commission said, adding that it must "respond to a constantly changing world where social and demographic challenges, new technology and imperatives and pressure on natural resources and climate change must be incorporated into policy thinking".
The measures outlined include improving rail passenger services by opening them to European competition, boosting long-term investment in the real economy, reducing the cost of high speed broadband, and ensuring that all EU citizens have a basic bank account.
Other proposals set out in the document are establishing a single market for maritime transport, giving entrepreneurs a "second chance" by modernising insolvency rules, making electronic invoicing standard practice in public procurement and improving the safety of European products.
The proposals have been timed to coincide with the 20th anniversary of the single market and come ahead of the EU's designated 'single market week' from October 15-20. The commission said it would put forward detailed plans in each of the 12 areas between the end of this year and spring 2013. It called on the European Parliament and member states to adopt the various elements of the act by spring 2014.
"This is our chance to use our golden asset, the single market, to see our social market economy to be competitive and thrive again," Barnier said. In a statement the commission added that it marked a "new chapter in a process towards a deeper and better integrated single market".
The document concludes: "If implemented swiftly, the Single Market Act II, together with the delivery of the Single Market Act I, will open new paths towards growth, employment and social cohesion for 500 million Europeans.
"It will show the determination of Europe to create new growth through a common agenda to exit the crisis. Together we need to act quickly and with ambition. We have no time to lose."
Philippe de Buck, director general of BusinessEurope – which represents industrial and employers' federations – called for the Single Market Act II to be implemented as quickly as possible. However, to succeed it would require "renewed commitment from member states, institutions and stakeholders to ensure that single market rules work better in practice", he said.
And Malcolm Harbour MEP, a member of the European Conservatives and Reformists group in the European Parliament, said: "The forthcoming 20th anniversary of the single market and today's Act II marks a raising of the pace of the single market story. The first act has built solid foundations. Now we must move into a new forward-looking narrative."