Sélecteur de langues
Brussels, 16th May 2002
Internal Market Scoreboard shows progress, but trade obstacles remain
According to the latest Internal Market Scoreboard, there are still significant delays in implementing at national level many pieces of EU law approved by Member States' Ministers in the Council and by the European Parliament. Only seven Member States (Sweden, Denmark, Finland, the UK, the Netherlands, Belgium and Spain) currently meet the target set by EU leaders at the Stockholm European Council in Spring 2001, of having an implementation deficit of 1.5 % or less: in other words, of having passed into national law at least 98.5 % of Internal Market Directives. The UK and Belgium have made particularly good progress in the last six months to achieve the target, while France, Greece, Germany and Ireland are furthest away from the target. The Commission also urges Member States to devote more attention to proper application in practice of Internal Market rules so as to reduce the practical problems encountered by companies and citizens seeking to take advantage of their rights within the Internal Market. The Scoreboard puts the spotlight on technical barriers to the free movement of goods within the Internal Market. The analysis suggests that where barriers persist (e.g. in construction products), the overall economic performance of the sector is held back. The results of a price survey on general grocery and household items indicate wide price differences across Europe. For the same product, consumers in some Member States can pay more than twice as much as consumers in other Member States.
Internal Market Commissioner Frits Bolkestein commented: "It is disappointing that only seven Member States currently meet the European Council's target of reducing their implementation deficits to 1.5% or below. As a result, EU leaders had no choice at Barcelona but to extend the period for meeting the target until Spring 2003. Let me be clear: there can be no excuse for failing to meet deadlines for implementing key measures that the Member States themselves have set themselves. It is now time for those Member States which are still falling short to fulfil their legal and political obligations. Furthermore, the Barcelona Council set a "zero tolerance" target for Directives that are two years or more overdue. Such blatant failures to act leave important gaps in the fabric of the Internal Market to the detriment of our citizens and businesses."
The Internal Market plays a key role in achieving the EU's objective of becoming the most dynamic economy in the world by 2010. It gives EU citizens a wider choice of quality goods and services, greater freedom to travel, work, study and live in other EU countries. It makes for a more efficient allocation of resources and offers greater trading opportunities to our companies. But the Internal Market can only achieve its full potential if agreed Directives are effectively implemented and applied by Member States.
The Internal Market Scoreboard keeps pressure on Member States by showing their relative performance in implementing this legislation. This approach has worked well: the EU's average implementation deficit has fallen steadily from 6.3% in 1997 to 1.8% at present.
There now seems to be a leading group of Member States which have met the 1.5% target on a number of occasions and have taken steps which indicate that they will continue to do so in the future. The challenge for the other Member States is to catch up with the leading group. However, France and Germany, in particular, seem to have hit a wall, neither having made much progress over the last 6 to 12 months (with France actually falling back since last November).
Implementation of Internal Market Directives
The total number of infringement proceedings concerning implementation and application of Internal Market rules has risen by 2% since the November 2001 Scoreboard and currently exceeds 1500 cases. France and Italy still account for nearly 30% of all infringements.
Plugging gaps in the legal framework
The Scoreboard also reports on progress in implementing measures to improve the functioning of the Internal Market. However, only about 50% of target initiatives set out in the Internal Market Strategy have been completed on time. Between now and the end of the year, 13 initiatives will need to be completed. These include adopting the proposals to modernise and simplify EU public procurement rules and to create a Community Patent as well as measures in the fields of financial services, energy, transport and competition policy.
Fully integrated financial markets could add €43 billion per annum to the Union's GDP. The Financial Services Action Plan has made good progress: 27 out of 42 measures have now been completed.
Free movement of goods
The Barcelona European Council asked the Commission to report in the Scoreboard on technical barriers to trade. As a first response, four brief analyses of industry sectors (telecom terminal equipment, construction products, bicycles and beer) highlight some important remaining bottlenecks, as well as progress made.
Approximately half of intra-EU trade in goods is covered by EU harmonised legislation facilitating the free movement of goods. In this 'harmonised sector', telecom terminal equipment (e.g. mobile phones, modems, remote controls) is one of the success stories. The key to success was that businessmen and politicians alike recognised both how important the sector would become as well as the need to find European solutions to dismantling major technical barriers. The industry now faces a major challenge to meet the costs of the introduction of the third generation UMTS standard. European harmonisation will continue to support the industry in its efforts to deliver real benefits to customers.
In contrast, European harmonisation has so far been less successful for construction products. Despite considerable efforts over the last ten years, few harmonised European standards are available and trade in construction products is below average. This situation is compounded by the continued existence of complex technical barriers related to national building regulations.
However, there is some light on the horizon with new European standards coming on stream now. The Scoreboard will continue to monitor progress in this important sector.
Technical regulation has not been harmonised for bicycles and national technical barriers continue to add unnecessary costs to trading for the small and medium sized businesses which dominate the EU industry. On the initiative of the bicycle industry, the European standardisation body CEN is currently preparing a new European standard for bicycles. Once adopted by CEN, the new European standard should lead to the withdrawal of all national standards thus significantly reducing technical barriers to trade.
After the resolution of several problems over the last 15 years, the principle of mutual recognition now seems to work well for the European beer industry. Specific technical barriers no longer prevent the free flow of beer across borders. However, large differences in tax and excise duty do cause major distortions which hamper the smooth functioning of the Internal Market.
A major Commission-sponsored survey has found that significant price differences persist across Europe for general grocery and household items. For instance, the price of a Mars chocolate bar in the most expensive country (Denmark) is double the price of the cheapest country (Belgium). Similarly, a bottle of Coca-Cola is twice as expensive in Denmark compared to Germany.
The very large price differences for certain individual items seem to indicate that some producers exploit market fragmentation by operating different pricing policies in different national markets. There is considerable scope for further price convergence. There are certain regulatory factors that appear to limit downward pressure on prices by impeding the attempts of retailers to advertise, market and retail across borders and/or devise EU-wide strategies. Examples include differing legislation on commercial communications, on urban planning, on the type of products allowed to be sold and on franchising arrangements. All can make it more difficult for retailers to penetrate new markets and compete with the established players.
The full text of the latest Internal Market Scoreboard is available on the Europa internet site: