European Commissioner for Internal Market and
Press Conference on the Internal Market Strategy Implementation -
I am very pleased to be here to talk about how the EU is doing on implementing the internal market strategy. When we talk about the internal market we are also talking about Lisbon. And when we talk about Lisbon we are talking about our economic future. Our prosperity in a globalised world. Creating jobs in a knowledge-based economy. Funding our pensions and our social security as our citizens live longer.
I also want to make crystal clear what we are not talking about. First, we are not talking about petty red tape. We need to nail that Eurosceptic myth. The single market is about new opportunities for businesses and for citizens. A proper legal framework which everybody respects is the only way to ensure goods, services, capital and people can circulate freely.
This Commission is committed to working with Member States to put over-regulation right. But make no mistake, the vast majority of internal market laws reduce red tape. Without them, there would often be 25 sets of rules instead of one for businesses to comply with. There is a huge economic dividend up for grabs if we can get rid of remaining barriers which deprive businesses of bigger markets and consumers of choice and better value.
Implementation does not just mean passing laws in obscure rooms in Brussels. It means getting those laws on to national statute books on time. It means national, regional and local authorities applying them properly.
It also means giving businesses and citizens a quick and effective means of redress. Someone who is being unjustly denied the right to work in another Member State, or a business refused access to a national market, cannot wait years for an infringement case to meander its way to the European Court of Justice. That is why we have set up the SOLVIT network, to get the misapplication of internal market law put right. You can find in the leaflets outside plenty of examples of how SOLVIT has helped real people get real solutions to real problems that threatened livelihoods.
The single market cannot function if Member States do not write Directives into national law on time. We are not talking about the “Brussels diktats” of Eurosceptic myth, or about arbitrary dates the Commission dreams up. These are European laws, and timetables for putting them into practice, agreed by the Member States themselves in the Council. I take the old-fashioned view that a Minister’s signature on a Directive should be a firm commitment, not a vague aspiration.
It gives me particular pleasure therefore that the latest internal market scoreboard has plenty of good news. The transposition deficit is the proportion of EU laws which should by now have been written into national law and has not been. The average deficit per Member State is down to 3.6 %, from 7.1 % at enlargement. That is still too high. Successive European Councils have set the target at 1.5 %. The real target is zero. But let’s not quibble. We are going in the right direction.
Three new Member States, Lithuania, Hungary and Poland, are among the top twelve performers – which we have called the “first division” for convenience. All the new Member States have reduced their deficits since accession. Spain has maintained its good performance and the Netherlands has improved significantly.
My predecessor had just cause often enough to stand here and criticise France and Germany for their poor performance. But both have shown a significant improvement this time and I am pleased to recognise that.
It is not all bouquets. Improvements by new Member States mask the worsening performance of many of the old ones. I am sure the governments of Denmark, Finland the UK and Ireland, which have set the pace in the past, are determined to make sure their disappointing score is a temporary blip. Belgium, Luxembourg, Italy and Greece have all gone into reverse gear.
And some of the new Member States still have high deficits.
In the end, though, the key lesson is that with the right dosage of political will, Member States, new and longstanding, can turn things round and improve their performance.
We need to get key indicators, for example on intra-EU trade, price convergence and cross-border direct investment, moving in the right direction again. Making what is already there work will be at least as important as passing new laws in achieving that.
The report also looks at legal initiatives still in the pipeline. Again, there are positives. For example, 40 out of 42 Financial Services Action Plan measures have been adopted. We have a new public procurement framework.
But there are still some key measures which have been held up in the Council and the Parliament. I am thinking of the Community Patent and the Directive on patents for computer-implemented inventions. I am thinking of the Directive simplifying the system for the recognition of professional qualifications. All of those measures are crucial to stimulating innovation and competitiveness.
Because that is what Lisbon means: not just a slogan, not a political football, not just a label of convenience to be attached to any policy that has been gathering dust in a cupboard somewhere. But an achievable agenda for sustainable prosperity. And the internal market is a cornerstone of that agenda.