Brussels, 22 May 2000
Internal Market Scoreboard: Commission warns of slowdown in Member States' efforts to implement legislation
After two years of improvement, efforts by Member States to improve the time it takes to write Internal Market legislation they have all agreed into national law have come to a standstill. According to the latest issue of the Single Market Scoreboard 13 per cent of all Internal Market Directives (194 out of 1489) that had entered into force by 15 April 2000 had still not been implemented by all Member States. Four countries - Greece, Portugal, France and Luxembourg - account for more than 40% of the delays. The gap between those countries that implement legislation the fastest and those with a record as the slowest is widening. The Commission has set Member States the objective of bringing the implementation deficit to below 1.5 per cent by the end of the year. To date only Sweden, Spain and Finland have hit that target although Italy, Luxembourg, Belgium, Austria, United Kingdom and Spain have all improved their performance. It is clear from these figures that extra effort will be needed if Member States are to meet the challenge they set themselves at the Lisbon Council to speed up economic reform and establish a fully operational Internal Market. In particular, in terms of realising the potential of the information society, it is worrying to note that of the five Directives related to information society services, not one has been fully implemented across the EU.
Internal Market Commissioner Frits Bolkestein said: "After years of progress, it is disheartening to see the difference deepening between those who implement Internal Market rules and those who delay their implementation. Member States that have fallen behind must work fast to close this gap. This is particularly important if we are to meet the Lisbon objective of creating "the most competitive and dynamic knowledge-based economy in the world. Without a fully operational Internal Market I do not think we can achieve this objective."
The Internal Market gives Europe's citizens a wider choice of quality goods and services, greater freedom to travel, work, study and live in other EU countries and gives businesses greater trading opportunities. Previous editions of the Scoreboard (first introduced in November 1997), by comparing efforts and results achieved in applying Internal Market rules, have encouraged Member States to compete with each other to achieve the best performance.
The latest Scoreboard report shows mixed progress in transposition. There is a widening gap between countries implementing Internal Market legislation on time, and those lagging behind. Sweden, Spain and Finland (the all time Internal Market champion) have a transposition deficit of less than 1.5%.
Four countries - Greece, Portugal, France and Luxembourg have a transposition deficit of more than 4%. Greece in particular has fallen back to its November 1997 level, when the first Scoreboard report was published. France has accumulated the longest delays, on average 18 months compared to just 6 months for Denmark which shows the lowest figure. Luxembourg, Austria, Italy, Belgium who have been some of the worst performers in the past have come to grips with the problem and are now showing consistent improvement.
Most delays relate to the implementation of recent Directives. Some 60 per cent of those whose deadline for implementation expired in 1998 have still not been fully implemented by all Member States, for 1999 the figure is 90 per cent. Greece, France, Portugal and Luxembourg together account for 44 per cent of all delays (344 measures overdue out of 786). Luxembourg has however improved from its November 1999 performance.
Progress in implementation of Internal Market Directives
|May 1999||May 1998|
Uneven implementation of legislation fragments the Internal Market and is the source of many infringements. Of particular concern is the problem of the late application of older Directives, for which the implementation deadline expired before January 1998.
Greece, France and Ireland account for more than half these infringement proceedings. Taken overall, however, the number of infringement procedures concerning Internal Market rules is declining.
Infringement statistics for alleged breaches of Internal Market rules
Comparison between 1.3.99-1.3.2000 and 1.3.98-1.3.1999(1)
|Cases referred to the European Court of Justice||3.99-9.00||9||1||4||5||3||20||4||18||1||1||1||5||0||1||1||74|
|Judgements of European
Court of Justice
Scoreboard data shows that further progress has been made in ratifying new European standards in support of the "New Approach" Directives, by which minimum requirements are set at European level and technical standards that guarantee that a product meets minimum requirements are developed by European Standardisation bodies. At the end of 1999, 49% of standards mandated to European Standardisation bodies under this "new approach" had been ratified compared to just 21% in 1995. Development time for standards has also been shortened.
Volume of national technical regulation remains high
In sectors where there are no European standards, Member States continue to impose specific product requirements at national level. The volume of technical regulation at national level continues to be high. Three countries - the Netherlands, Germany and Austria - and five sectors - agricultural products and foodstuffs, transport, building and construction, telecommunications and mechanical engineering - account for the bulk of all notifications of new draft technical regulations in application of Directive 98/34/EC which establishes a Community information procedure to prevent new technical regulations becoming barriers to the free movement of goods and information society services.
Citizens' interest in the Internal Market
Feedback from queries and problems notified to the Commission under the "Dialogue with Citizens and Business" programme shows that issues involving working, living and studying in another country provoke most questions. In general citizens are largely unaware of their rights. Analysis of feedback points to the need to distinguish problems of implementation from those which flow from the application by national officials of Internal Market rules.
Eurostat preliminary Purchasing Power Parity (PPP) figures for 1998 confirm the continued trend towards price convergence in the Internal Market. Comparison of price levels for private final consumption in the Member States based on PPPs show a continuing wide gap in prices between the most and least expensive countries (Denmark and Portugal). However, relative prices have continued to decline in the Netherlands, Austria, Finland, Sweden and France helped by increased competition and better integration in the Internal Market. Prices in the UK increased relative to the other Member States, propelled by the strong pound, and, to a lesser extent, in Ireland, driven by rapid and prolonged economic expansion.
The full text of the latest Scoreboard is available from the Europa internet site: http://ec.europa.eu/internal_market
(1) The figures in the tables are independent of one another. One and the same case may appear several times, e.g. if the letter of formal notice and the reasoned opinion were both sent between 1 March 1999 and 1March 2000. Also shown in the tables are the cases closed after the formal initiation of proceedings.