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Charlie McCreevy

European Commissioner for Internal Market and Services

Internal Market Scoreboard February 2007

Press Conference on Internal Market Scoreboard
Brussels, 1st February 2007

I am very pleased to be able to say that today we have the best result ever for the Internal Market scoreboard.

The Single Market is one of the greatest achievements of the European Union. Removing barriers to the free movement of people, goods, services and capital has brought greater prosperity to people across a continent. Today, nearly 500 million people live within its space.

In reality the Single Market is a joint venture between the EU and its Member States, whose job it is to translate Single Market rules into national law. Member States do not legislate in response to some arbitrary deadline or target set by the Commission: they agree Single Market laws themselves, together with the timetable for putting the laws into practice. It is then their responsibility to get these laws onto national statute books on time, and to ensure that they are applied properly.

For many years we have been monitoring Member States' performance in putting Single Market laws into action. Ten years ago, the gap between the number of single market laws adopted in Brussels and those in force in the Member States – known in the jargon as the 'transposition deficit' - stood at 6%. There has been real progress in recent years, leading to the latest result, which, I am delighted to report, is the best ever. For the first time the average deficit has fallen below 1.5% and stands at 1.2%

What's more, all Member States have made progress. Denmark and Lithuania, both five Directives away from a perfect score, share first place. At the other end, however, Portugal and Greece have a deficit that is almost double that of the EU average, while Italy and Luxembourg also lag behind. I encourage those Member States to redouble their efforts.

This overall result is significant and Member States deserve congratulations on this achievement. But it should not be taken as a signal to ease off. Rather we should ask ourselves whether the time has not come to set even more stretching targets. I know that the German Presidency is thinking about this, and it is certainly something I would strongly support.

Getting laws onto national statute books is only half the job. The Single Market must work in daily life, not just on paper. National laws need to be of high quality, and whoever actually applies the rules at national level needs to do it correctly. There are still too many instances of Member States failing to do this. In fact, only eight Member States have managed to reduce the number of infringement proceedings against them. And we're not talking about fine legal distinctions here. Behind every case, real individuals are being denied their rights, and real businesses are incurring unnecessary costs.

My message is that we need to focus on improving the quality of the national laws that implement Single Market rules, and on improving how they are applied on the ground. If Member States can make the same progress as they have done in putting Single Market rules into national law, then we really will be on the right track.

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