Brussels, 13 April 2011
Twelve projects for the 2012 Single Market: together for new growth
The Single Market is still the nucleus and the core economic driving force of the European Union. It also remains our most effective means of responding to the current economic crisis. Its growth potential has not yet been fully exploited, despite the progress made since it was created in 1992. The Single Market must therefore open the doors to new, greener and more inclusive growth. The Single Market Act adopted today by the European Commission aims to deliver twelve projects on which to relaunch the Single Market for 2012. These twelve instruments of growth, competitiveness and social progress range from worker mobility to SME finance and consumer protection, via digital content, taxation and trans-European networks. Their aim is to make life easier for everyone on the Single Market: businesses, citizens, consumers and workers (see IP/10/1390).
The President of the European Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso, has declared that: ‘The Single Market has always been the driving force behind our economic development and prosperity and, now more than ever, it remains our best asset in facing the crisis. The twelve projects that we are launching today will make it possible to give it new momentum which will significantly benefit businesses, workers and consumers. Our objective is a stronger Single Market in 2012!’.
The Commissioner for Internal Market and Services, Michel Barnier, added ‘Today’s proposal is a coherent response to the shortcomings of the internal market and aims at a sustainable and inclusive growth model. The Commission calls on all concerned, first and foremost the Member States and the European Parliament, to make this action plan their own by quickly adopting the twelve key measures by 2012, so as to give the initiatives of Single Market players a greater chance to benefit fully from the opportunities on offer’.
What are the twelve instruments?
The more than 850 contributions received throughout the four months of public debate and the opinions and conclusions of the European institutions enabled the Commission to identify twelve instruments for stimulating growth and boosting citizens’ confidence. Each instrument is accompanied by a flagship initiative on which the Commission undertakes to make proposals during the coming months, the aim being to gain final approval from the European Parliament and the Council before the end of 2012. Each instrument also contains other, equally important proposals which should benefit from the momentum generated by the flagship initiative in order to make progress – sometimes in parallel and sometimes at a slightly slower rate.
1. Access to finance for SMEs
This is a crucial measure for over 20 million small and medium-sized European enterprises which, lacking finance, often have difficulty in recruiting staff, launching new products or building up their infrastructure. The aim is therefore to put in place common rules for venture-capital funds, enabling those established in one Member State to invest in any other Member State and thus to provide innovative SMEs with funding combined with the necessary expertise and at an attractive price.
2. Worker mobility in the Single Market
In 2009 5.8 million Europeans, equivalent to 2.5 % of the active population of the European Union, worked in another Member State. Enhanced mobility for qualified workers would help the European economy to be more competitive. The fact that many posts for highly-qualified personnel remain vacant makes this all the more urgent. To remove the legal obstacles still preventing Europeans from working where they wish to work, we intend to modernise the rules for recognising professional qualifications so as to simplify procedures, review the scope of the regulated professions, and strengthen confidence and cooperation between the Member States, first and foremost by issuing a European Professional Card.
3. Intellectual property rights
Intellectual property is every bit as important as raw materials or the industrial base: between 44% and 75% of the resources of European businesses are linked to it. It is a strong comparative advantage of the European Union. It is thus crucial for European competitiveness to provide unitary patent protection for inventions for as many Member States as possible, the aim being to grant the first unitary patents in 2013. We are putting forward proposals to this end today (see IP/11/470 and MEMO/11/240 of 13 April).
4. Consumers: Single Market players
To boost the confidence of consumers in the Single Market we must guarantee their rights. This means above all developing alternative approaches to dispute settlement and putting in place non-judicial means of redress. Consumers will then have access to easier, quicker and cheaper procedures. This is essential to online trading, in which increased consumer confidence in cross-border electronic commerce would yield an economic gain estimated at EUR 2.5 billion.
5. Services: strengthening standardisation
Services are the driving force behind job creation in Europe: while EU growth averaged 2.1% per year from 1998 to 2008, the services sector grew by an average of 2.8% per year. Employment in the sector grew by 2% per year, compared with 1% for the economy as a whole. To make the most of this asset, the Commission proposes to revise the legislation on the European standardisation system to extend it to services and make standardisation procedures more effective, efficient and inclusive.
6. Stronger European networks
Transport, energy and electronic communications networks are the backbone of the Single Market. High-performance infrastructures are the means to fast and reasonably-priced free movement of persons, goods, energy sources and data. The Commission will adopt legislation on energy and transport infrastructures in order to identify strategic projects of European interest.
7. Digital Single Market
Boosting confidence in electronic transactions is a sine qua non for the development of a Digital Single Market that will fully benefit citizens, businesses and authorities. Europe needs legislation to guarantee mutual recognition of electronic identification and authentication across its territory, and a revision of the e-signature Directive to permit safe and unobstructed electronic interaction.
8. Social entrepreneurship
As well as legitimately seeking financial profit, certain businesses also choose to pursue the general-interest objectives of social, ethical or environmental development. This sector generates growth and employment. To encourage this, we need to take full advantage of the formidable financial tool which is the European asset management industry. We will propose a European framework for mutual investment funds, so as to amplify the effect of the existing national initiatives by offering these funds the opportunities provided by the Single Market.
EU tax legislation no longer meets the needs of the Single Market of the 21st century or the challenges of sustainable development. It does not give sufficient encouragement to the most energy-saving or environmentally friendly practices. We are therefore putting forward today a revision of the Energy Tax Directive, aiming to guarantee consistent treatment of the various energy sources and thus take better account of the energy content of products and their CO2 emissions (see IP/11/468 and MEMO/11/238).
10. More social cohesion in the Single Market
To boost social cohesion in Europe, the Commission intends to make a legislative proposal for strengthening the application of the Posting of Workers Directive, so as to prevent and penalise any abuse or circumvention of the rules. It will also clarify the exercise of fundamental social rights as part of the exercise of economic freedoms.
11. Regulatory environment for business
Businesses still too often view the Single Market as an area of constraints, not of opportunities. Their lives must be simplified by reducing regulatory and administrative constraints. To achieve this, the Commission is therefore proposing a simplification of the accounting Directives as regards financial reporting obligations, and a reduction of the administrative burden, especially for SMEs.
12. Public procurement
The public authorities spend some 18% of the EU’s GDP on goods, services and public works. This public expenditure is an essential tool for growth. European and national legislation has opened up public contracts to fair competition, giving citizens better quality at the best price. The Commission proposes to modernise this legislative framework in order to arrive at a balanced policy sustaining the demand for environmentally friendly, socially responsible and innovative goods and services, provide contracting authorities with simpler and more flexible procedures, and give SMEs easier access.
What are the next steps?
At the end of 2012 the Commission will take stock of the progress of this action plan and present its programme for the next stage. Its considerations will be fed by a large-scale economic study, the results of which should help to identify any areas with still unexploited growth potential and, where appropriate, pinpoint new drivers of growth.
Michel Barnier’s website:
The Single Market Act: