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European Commission - Speech - [Check Against Delivery]

Let's get Europe working: driving a new phase of growth and competitiveness

Brussels, 18 November 2014

Elżbieta Bieńkowska - Commissioner for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs

Brussels, 18 November 2014, European Voice/The Economist conference "Let's get Europe working: driving a new phase of growth and competitiveness"

 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is an honour for me to participate today in this event on growth and competitiveness.

To achieve the objective of boosting growth and competitiveness, we need to support the real economy and put it at the heart of Europe's economic agenda.

Raising industry’s share of EU GDP from 15% today towards 20% is not a goal in itself. The goal is to keep and create high-value jobs.

In early 2015 I will propose a full road-map with a series of actions to support an industrial renaissance.

I want to do this via concrete actions in three areas:

These three areas, together with industrial policy, are clearly complementary and stimulate each other.

Today I want to focus more on the single market, SMEs and entrepreneurship and how these will contribute to growth and jobs.

    • boosting the internal market for goods and services
    • fully exploiting public procurement as a lever for growth
    • fostering a culture that supports SMEs and entrepreneurs.

  

1. BOOSTING THE INTERNAL MARKET FOR GOODS AND SERVICES

We must first consolidate the elements already working in the internal market for goods and services. I will therefore make effective enforcement one of my goals.

For the internal market for services, my immediate priority is the full implementation of the Services Directive. Such implementationcould add another 0.5% to EU GDP, in addition to the 0.8% already generated from the implementation so far of the Directive.

To achieve this, we are currently analysing the main barriers to such integration and their economic effects. Based on this analysis, I intend to propose a renewed strategy for services for mid-2015.

We need to look at in particular at:


FIRST: Further integrating the services market.

The services sector plays a central part in our economy – representing 70% of EU GDP and employment.

Several service sectors are showing low productivity growth and an inefficient allocation of resources

The EU level of trade integration and cross-border establishment in services also continues to be disproportionately low compared to goods.

Service providers who would want to establish or provide their services cross-border in another Member State continue facing important barriers.

We have to address these obstacles in order to fully open up the services market.

The focus should be on those sectors with the greatest economic potential, such as business services, retail and construction.

Our assessment shows that various issues still constitute barriers for business:

i. Many companies with the intention to establish themselves in another Member State face lengthy authorisation procedures even if they already obtained similar authorisations in their home country.

ii. Member State should also abolish or reduce unjustified legal form and shareholding requirements.

 

SECOND: Better exploiting the major opportunities the digital Single Market offers.

We should remove obstacles to cross-border e-commerce. Only 10% of European consumers buy online cross-border.

E-commerce has a transforming potential on the retail and postal services sectors. It needs to be fully exploited.

The discrimination by companies of consumers according to their nationality or place of residence means consumers do not get the full benefits of the single market.

This summer the Commission addressed consumer discrimination in the car rental sector. We will look at further sectors, as well as facilitating the development of cross-border price comparison tools.

We should also exploit the potential of e-government to reduce administrative burden for service providers.

We need to simplify administrative procedures. In the 21st century, it must be enough to fill in a form and provide the information to an EU government - once.

Companies should be offered more opportunities to complete administrative procedures online. The electronic European Professional Card is a good example how administrative requirements can be simplified through digital procedures.

 

THIRD: Exploit the full potential of services in jobs creation.

Services account for two out of three jobs in our economies.

Services are the key sector where job creation will actually take place in Europe also in the future, if we ensure that the framework conditions are right. I will put emphasis on supporting education and ensuring the appropriate skills of the labour force.

 

2. PUBLIC PROCUREMENT AS A LEVER FOR GROWTH AND COMPETITIVENESS

Public procurement is directly linked to key policy challenges the EU is facing: fiscal discipline, modernisation of public administration, innovation, and green and inclusive growth.

Public procurement represents 19% of GDP! That is why it is so important for companies, citizens and taxpayers.

We are not starting from scratch. In 2014, a big public procurement reform aiming at simplifying procedures (eProcurement) was put in place at EU level.

This new legal framework is only a first step. The rules have now to be transposed in 28 Member States, which is a big challenge.

A key challenge I want to address is to open markets in public procurement. This means first a real Single Market with less localism in public purchases and more transparency. Non-national operators must be treated equally with national ones.

Compared to the business markets, the public procurement market is by far less integrated at the European level: cross-border public procurement is 2.5 times smaller than import penetration in the private sector.

This needs to change. I will engage member states to remove practices leading to lack of transparency and unfair treatment of non-national businesses.

Successful Public procurement policy will lead to budgetary savings, will support companies and will create a more business and people friendly public administration.

 

3. SUPPORTING SMEs AND ENTREPRENEURS

And thirdly, we need to pay special attention to SMEs, which are the backbone of our economy and key to the creation of jobs and growth.

A major concern for them is to get access to the finance needed to develop their business. Making full use of the €2.3 billion in the COSME programme is part of that effort.

I will propose a revised Small Business Act for Europe. It will aim to ensure that anywhere in Europe, the time and costs of setting up business will be radically reduced with a faster licensing process.

We have to revive Europe's the culture of entrepreneurship, by building on the Entrepreneurship 2020 Action Plan. Only if a large number of Europeans have an entrepreneurial spirit will economic growth materialise in the long term.

Finally, essential for business and citizens is the way authorities operate. We have to further modernise public administration, by exchanging best practices and addressing progress in the European Semester process.

We can also do much to reduce the administrative burden by deploying electronic one-stop shops and facilitating transfers of business. Moreover, I will propose to facilitate the handling of bankruptcy cases so as to give a second chance to honest entrepreneurs.

 

CONCLUSION

Ladies and gentlemen, we are still not out of the economic crisis. What we need is a modern, pragmatic yet focused policy. We need intelligent measures, taking into account the specificities of sectors and markets.

My motto will be "accelerate and integrate". We need to accelerate the implementation of concrete actions to support a competitive European economy. And we have to better integrate competitiveness in all policy areas, at EU and national level.

This is why I call for a constructive partnership to deliver concrete and practical results that our citizens expect from us: A PARTNERSHIP TO PUT EUROPE BACK TO WORK.

SPEECH/14/2349

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