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Charlie McCreevy

European Commissioner for Internal Market and Services

Internal Market Scoreboard December 2005

Press Conference
Brussels, 21 February 2006

I am very pleased to be able to talk to you today about the scoreboard results which are the best results ever for implementing Internal Market rules.

The Internal Market is key to delivering more jobs and growth in Europe. By bringing down national barriers in the EU, it helps to unlock prosperity for all, and means more opportunities for businesses and for every citizen.

For the Internal Market to deliver these benefits, Member States have to put the legal framework in place. And they do not do so in response to some arbitrary deadline or target set by the Commission: in partnership with the Parliament. The Member States themselves agree Internal Market laws in Council, together with a timetable for putting the laws into practice. It's then their responsibility to get these laws onto national statute books on time.

It's a myth that these laws somehow increase the regulatory burden. In fact the vast majority of them reduce red tape, and do so massively. Without them, there would often be 25 sets of rules instead of one for businesses to comply with.

So when a Member State fails to implement laws on time, everyone loses out. The playing field remains far from level. And real opportunities for growth and jobs are lost.

So I am delighted to report that Member States have posted their best result ever in putting Internal Market laws into action. The overall proportion of Internal Market laws which should by now have been written into national law, but have not been, is down to only 1.6%. This is tantalisingly close to the 1.5% interim target set by Heads of State. Next time I hope to be congratulating Member States on breaking this barrier. Of course, the real target is zero. But let's take things one step at a time.

Delving further into the figures, a total of 17 Member States have reached the 1.5% target, and topping the league table is Lithuania. What's more, the 'new' Member States that joined the EU in 2004 have reduced their average deficit to 1.2%, which is a supreme effort. But some 'older' Member States, such as Portugal, Luxembourg and Greece, are lagging behind. I urge them to redouble their efforts.

Overall these results are very encouraging indeed. But getting laws onto national statute books is only half the job. Whoever applies the rules at national level needs to do it correctly.

There are still far too many cases of Member States failing to do this. In fact our results show that only five Member States have managed to reduce the number of infringement cases against them, which I have to say is disappointing compared to progress made in other areas. And we're not talking about fine legal distinctions here. Behind every case, real individuals or businesses are being denied their rights.

Help is at hand though for the many cases where opening a formal infringement procedure is not necessary. The SOLVIT network offers a quick and effective means of redress to businesses and citizens affected by the misapplication of Internal Market law. So, if someone is being unjustly denied the right to work in another Member State, or a business is being refused access to a national market, there is a fast alternative to opening a lengthy infringement case. Instead, SOLVIT gets all the parties together to work out a real, practical solution.

These results are good news for everyone in the EU. I encourage Member States to build on the excellent progress they have made. It is a major contribution towards our aim of delivering more jobs and growth in Europe.

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