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Single Market: new Scoreboard reflects significant progress
Commission Européenne - IP/98/441 18/05/1998
Brussels, 18 May 1998
Single Market: new Scoreboard reflects significant progress
Significant progress on implementing the Action Plan for the Single Market is reported in the new edition of the Scoreboard presented to the Internal Market Council today by European Commissioner Mario Monti. The deficit has been halved to 18% compared to 35% when the Action Plan was adopted in June 1997, with particularly good progress made by Austria, Sweden, Finland, Germany and Greece. More than one third of the Action Plan commitments by the Commission, Council of Ministers and European Parliament have been met (23 out of 62). However, the Scoreboard also highlights a number of warning signs. Member States are failing to respect their own timetables for implementing missing Single Market Directives, there are delays in meeting a number of Action Plan deadlines and infringement proceedings are still excessively long. Member States are also still putting in place an ever increasing number of technical rules which can disrupt the Single Market. An analysis of problems encountered by citizens wishing to exercise their Single Market rights, published alongside the Scoreboard, reveals that lack of information is the greatest obstacle.
"The Scoreboard is evolving into an excellent management tool for monitoring the functioning of the Single Market", stated Mr Monti. "By putting objective information on the Single Market performance of the Commission and Member States in the public eye, we can help to tackle remaining Single Market obstacles. The euro will transform the Single Market into a vast trading area which exceeds in size and income any other single currency zone. The effective functioning of Single Market rules throughout the European Union (EU) will be essential for ensuring the flexible and efficient product, service, capital and labour markets that are critical for the success of the euro as emphasised in the Resolution adopted by the European Council at Luxembourg".
Implementation improves but further efforts required
Incomplete implementation of the rules is a serious problem for citizens and businesses that wish to take full advantage of the Single Market. This second issue of the Single Market Scoreboard shows that Member States have made significant progress since the November 1997 issue (see IP/97/1017) in eliminating the implementation deficit, which has now fallen to 18.2% (i.e. of the 1368 Single Market Directives, 249 have still not been implemented in all Member States). However, certain Member States (Austria, Sweden, Finland, Germany and Greece) have made better progress than others (Belgium, Italy, Portugal, Luxembourg and France).
Comparison of Member States' implementation deficits (% rate of Directives not yet notified to the Commission):
The Scoreboard notes a worrying shortfall between some Member States' aspirations to implement agreed legislation at national level and their record in doing so. Member States should therefore accelerate their rate of implementation if they are to meet the 1 January 1999 deadline for eliminating all implementation delays.
Commission is set to improve internal procedures for handling infringements
The Commission will remain vigilant in identifying practices which may frustrate the free movement of goods, products, services and people, in particular to ensure sustainable development and guard against protectionist tendencies prompted by greater competition within the single currency zone. The Scoreboard indicates that the Commission has increased the number of infringement procedures opened for breaches of Single Market rules (incorrect implementation and incorrect application):
Infringement statistics for alleged breaches of Single Market rules Comparison between 1.3-97-1.3.98 and 1.9.96 -1.9.97
However, the statistics also demonstrate the need to improve the efficiency of infringement procedures. For example, Member States fail to respond in some 15% of cases and the average time taken to respond to infringement letters (80-90 days) exceeds the normal 60 day limit by almost 50%. The dialogue between the Commission and the Member State concerned enables many problems to be resolved without recourse to the Court of Justice (only 10-15% of cases reach the Court every year). However, the time taken to resolve the most difficult cases can stretch up to 8 years in cases of incorrect application or incorrect implementation of the rules (see table).
Time elapsed between registration of a complaint or opening of an own initiative infringement case and European Court judgements delivered in 1997
Responsibility for the delays is shared between Member States and EU institutions. For its part, the Commission intends to:
- enforce tight internal deadlines at each stage of the procedure
- do its utmost to ensure that Commission decisions are notified to Member States within one week
- insist on strict respect by Member States of deadlines for replying to letters of formal notice and complying with reasoned opinions, and, in the absence of a reply within the deadline, the Commission will, as a general rule, proceed to the next stage of the infringement procedure;
- apply more efficient management techniques and procedures so that, in practice, Commission decisions to send a letter of formal notice or to close an infringement case are adopted and executed more rapidly than under the current one-year time limit.
Action Plan largely on course
Action Plan commitments met by the Commission, Member States and the Parliament include the landmark agreement on the tax package (December 1997) and the very good progress on three of the four priority measures in the Action Plan, namely biotechnology patents (Parliament has approved at second reading), gas liberalisation (adopted) and transparency mechanism for services (adoption imminent). For its part, the Commission has taken important steps to modernise competition rules and to advance the process of regulatory simplification. It has also come forward with new proposals on copyright, conditional access services and late payments, as well as suggesting new ways to ensure that public procurement rules become more effective.
The Single Market Action Plan has been the catalyst for improvement in administrative co-operation. As businesses and citizens set about exercising their Single Market rights, structures are being developed to improve day-to-day operation of Single Market rules. At EU level these include the Signpost Service, first established under Citizens First, and now being developed as part of the Dialogue with Citizens. At national level, there are co-ordination centres and contact points. The Commission will carefully monitor the effectiveness of these arrangements, and report to the Internal Market Ministers in November 1998.
However, with a little over six months before the Action Plan deadline, worrying delays are accumulating and even where commitments have been realised, they often mark only the first tentative steps towards tackling longstanding obstacles to the functioning of the Single Market.
Threat to the Single Market from national regulation
Procedures exist requiring Member States to notify new technical regulations to ensure that no new technical barriers to trade arise in the Single Market. These procedures can also help to focus harmonisation work, by pointing to fields in which a EU solution would be preferable to the multiplication of national initiatives. However, it is clear from the Scoreboard that Member States are still putting in place an increasing number of technical rules, up from 385 in 1993 to 670 in 1997 (not including 230 notifications from the Netherlands following the Court's CIA/Securitel ruling). The volume of technical regulation at national level therefore far exceeds that at EU level. Not all national specifications pose problems for cross-border business, but in 1997, doubts concerning the compatibility of national technical rules with the Single Market were raised in 240 instances.
For the first time, the Scoreboard features some data on economic integration within the Single Market, including trends in trade, foreign direct investment (FDI), mergers and acquisitions and price convergence. For example, investment flows between Member States accounted for 65% of total EU FDI between 1992 and 1996 as against 57% between 1986 and 1991. This data is a first step towards developing the Scoreboard to monitor market integration and to detect practices which could threaten the functioning of the Single Market. This element of the Scoreboard will be further developed in the next edition in November.
Feedback from European citizens
A detailed analysis of 3235 enquiries addressed to the Citizens First Signpost Service in the period between November 1996 and November 97, which accompanies this issue of the Scoreboard, provides useful insights into problems encountered by citizens seeking to exercise their rights in the Single Market. The vast majority of problems arise from lack of relevant information on the part of citizens, employers and administrations at all levels. This serves to reinforce the importance of initiatives such as Citizens First, which is due to be put on a permanent footing with the launch of the Dialogue with Citizens at the Cardiff European Council in June.
The text of the latest Scoreboard is available on the EU's World Wide Web site: