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Interim report on the single market in the 21st century

The preliminary report to the 2007 Spring European Council looks at the single market and presents the European Commission's vision of it for the 21st century. It describes an initial set of guidelines, with the aim of initiating a full review of the single market as well as stimulating additional proposals for action.

ACT

Communication from the Commission to the Council, the European Parliament, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions issued 21 February 2007 - "A single market for citizens - interim report to the 2007 Spring European Council" [COM (2007) 60 final - not published in the Official Journal].

SUMMARY

This interim report presents a vision of the 21st century single market. The single market represents one of the greatest and most tangible successes of the European Union (EU). It enables Europe to benefit from a more dynamic and competitive economy, where social rights are guaranteed alongside high standards of health, safety and the environment.

The single market makes consumers and businesses equal winners:

  • Consumers benefit from a wider choice of products and services at lower prices and with higher levels of quality/safety;
  • Businesses operate within a common set of rules and benefit from a market which has 500 million consumers.

Nevertheless, the reality of the single market is constantly developing: it will never be "finalised", nor will it be "complete". On the contrary, it is necessary to confront the new types of barriers and challenges (globalisation, structural developments, EU expansion, etc.) that emerge as markets develop. To do this, the single market of the 21st century is expected to make markets work better and deliver even greater tangible benefits to European citizens in an enlarged European Union.

A vision for the 21st century

The real challenge for the single market in the 21st century is to adapt the application of the existing regulatory framework and to respond appropriately to the dynamism of the world economy. The document identifies six key aspects:

  • a single market for consumers and citizens
    Benefits for consumers need to be even more tangible, within a framework of significant enhanced protection and quality for European products and services as well as for imports;
  • a single market for an integrated economy
    A single integrated market is essential to ensure fair and effective competition among businesses. A greater role for SMEs, creation of a European labour market, the spread of the use of the euro, more significant pan-European financial markets and investment in trans-European networks contribute to the further integration of the European economy;
  • a single market for a knowledge society
    Markets for highly knowledge- and technology-intensive goods and services need to be supported by confronting their fragmentation;
  • a single market for a well regulated Europe
    Now is the time to examine how all rules applicable throughout the whole Community are implemented, check if they are having the desired effects and, if necessary, make the required changes;
  • a single market for a sustainable Europe
    It is vital to both recognise and support the social and environmental aspects of the single market, by anticipating and supporting the process of globalisation;
  • a single market open to the world
    Europe must continue to act as a global standard-setter in the commercial and investment sectors.

Making the vision a reality

In order to make the vision of the single market a reality, the EU will make more efficient and consistent use of a range of instruments from various policy domains (domestic market, competition, tax and customs, etc.), reducing unnecessary administration costs.

The EU will need to adopt new approaches, which will benefit from a greater evaluation of the requirements of those within the single market and of the social impact of further integration.

Given the increased diversity in a Union of 27 Member States, it will be advisable to use a range of diverse and flexible instruments (harmonisation - mutual recognition, directives - regulations), with greater reliance on networks and by enhancing the ownership of the single market in the Member States.

The opportunities of the single market need to be better communicated and more accessible to citizens, businesses and local and regional authorities. Furthermore, priorities for the single market need to be linked to the global agenda, including the recent round of bilateral trade negotiations.

The EU will have recourse to the neighbourhood policy; it will reinforce benchmarking and bilateral cooperation on rules and will ensure that consumers benefit properly from the openness to global markets.

The annex to the Communication contains actual examples of what the single market has accomplished.

Background

This interim report aims to present the guidelines for an in-depth review and a new vision for the single market of the future. It is based on the findings of a public consultation, "Eurobarometer" polls and a public hearing as well as on input from other EU institutions. A full review of the single market, based on various studies and analyses, will be completed before the end of 2007.

ASSOCIATED ACTS

Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions - The European Interest: Succeeding in the age of globalisation - Contribution of the Commission to the October Meeting of Heads of State and Government [COM (2007) 581 final - not published in the Official Journal].
This Communication, produced as part of the preparation for the informal meeting held on 18 and 19 October 2007 with Heads of State and Government, indicates the course Europe should follow in order to deal with globalisation and reveals how the Lisbon Strategy for Growth and Jobs represents the cornerstone of its approach.

Last updated: 11.04.2008
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