Navigation path

One market without borders


In the EU’s single market (sometimes also called the internal market) people , goods , services , and money can move around the EU as freely as within a single country. Mutual recognition plays a central role in getting rid of barriers to trade.

EU citizens can study, live, shop, work and retire in any EU country - and enjoy products from all over Europe.

No more national barriers

To create this single market, hundreds of technical, legal and bureaucratic barriers to free trade and free movement between the EU’s member countries have been abolished.

As a result, companies have expanded their operations. The competition has brought prices down and given consumers more choice:

  • Phone calls in Europe cost a fraction of what they did 10 years ago
  • Many air fares have fallen significantly and new routes have opened up.
  • Many homes and businesses can now choose their electricity and gas suppliers.

At the same time, with the help of Europe’s various competition and regulatory authorities, the EU works to ensure that these greater freedoms don’t undermine fairness, consumer protection or environmental sustainability.

A huge business opportunity

European businesses selling in the EU have unrestricted access to nearly 500 million consumers, helping them to stay competitive. The single market is also attractive to foreign investors.

Economic integration can also be a great advantage in times of recession, allowing EU countries to continue trading with one another, rather than resorting to protectionist measures that would worsen the crisis.

Some barriers remain

Many obstacles remain, however, in areas where integration is taking longer:

  • fragmented national tax systems impede market integration and undermine efficiency
  • separate national markets still exist for financial services, energy and transport
  • e-commerce between EU countries has been slower to take off than at national level, and rules, standards and practices vary considerably
  • the services sector is lagging behind the goods markets (although it has been possible since 2006 for companies to offer a range of services abroad from their home base)
  • rules on the recognition of vocational qualifications need to be simplified to make it easier for qualified workers to find a job in another EU country.

The financial services market is a special case. The EU is seeking to build a strong, secure financial sector — while avoiding a repeat of the 2009 crisis — by supervising financial institutions, regulating complex financial products and requiring banks to hold more capital. The creation of the banking union transferred the mechanisms for bank supervision and resolution from national to EU level in several member countries. There are also plans to set up an EU-wide capital markets union to:

  • reduce fragmentation in financial markets
  • diversify sources of finance
  • strengthen flows of capital between EU countries
  • improve access to finance for businesses, particularly small and medium-sized companies.

External border checks

EU citizens do not need a passport to travel within the Schengen areas, which currently comprises 26 countries:

  • all EU countries except Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Ireland, Romania & the UK
  • Iceland, Lichtenstein, Norway & Switzerland

Although Schengen countries no longer carry out checks at internal borders, they have stepped up checks on the EU's external borders.

To ensure safety in the Schengen area, these countries have also increased police cooperation, in particular through hot pursuit and continued surveillance of suspects moving between countries. The Schengen Information System allows the police and customs and national border control authorities to circulate alerts about wanted or missing people or stolen vehicles and documents.

Top

Internal market

Updated in November 2014

This publication is part of the 'European Union explained' series


Banking and finance

Manuscript completed in November 2014

This publication is part of the 'European Union explained' series


Top




Top

CONTACT

General information enquiries

Call
00 800 6 7 8 9 10 11 See details of service

E-mail your questions

Contact and visit details for institutions, press contacts

Help us improve

Find what you wanted?

YesNo

What were you looking for?

Any suggestions?