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EU Commissioner for Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship
Reviving the European economy: How a common sales law will boost growth and job creation
La Sapienza University
Rome, Italy 5 September 2014
Ladies and gentlemen,
First of all, let me thank Mr Luigi Frati and Mr Giorgio Spangher of the University 'La Sapienza' and Mr Guido Alpa, President of the Consiglio Nazionale Forense, for organising this conference on the Common European Sales Law. I think we heard many interesting contributions today.
This debate is vital at a time when strengthening the economic recovery and getting citizens into work are at the top of Europe's political agenda. EU justice policy has an important part to play in this. Because justice policy is growth policy - la Politica UE della giustizia è politica di crescita.
Why? Because it puts the rules and safeguards in place that give enterprises, investors and consumers the confidence we need to tap the full potential of our goldmine, the Single Market. Economic growth is built on opportunity and trust, and EU justice policy helps to create them.
The Common European Sales Law proposed by the European Commission is a prime example. Giving businesses and consumers the possibility to choose one set of rules that will be the same everywhere in the EU for cross-border trades will tear down borders, open new markets and in turn help to kickstart economic growth.
In particular for small-and medium sized enterprises, of which there so many excellent examples in this country, the Common European Sales Law will bring immense business opportunities and savings.
Right now, many of them are reluctant to export their products. And I can see why. It can cost a company up to EUR 13 000 to adapt its website and contract terms to just one different legal regime. We can all work out what this means for a company contemplating doing business in all 28 Member States. This prohibitive cost is obviously a strong deterrent.
As a result, we are wasting precious potential for economic activity – at a time when Europe is recovering from a savage crisis and we should be using every tool we have at our disposal to bolster growth.
This is unacceptable. We need to change it. And we can. With the Common European Sales Law, a business will no longer have to create 28 different websites and sets of contract terms for trading in the EU. Instead, it will be able to sell its products using one single law and one single IT platform for the whole European Union.
What is more, the proposed legislation will not only boost cross-border trade in "traditional" goods, it also contains a new and innovative regime for digital products, such as movies, games and applications, including those downloaded from the cloud.
Finally, the Common European Sales Law offers another advantage: nobody will be forced to use it. Choice is the keyword. Only traders and consumers who see economic advantages will choose this optional set of rules.
The Common European Sales Law is thus an innovative tool that will cut red tape and set businesses free.
This will help us to build a true Digital Single Market that can be a motor of economic growth. A space that offers opportunities and choice. For businesses, but also for consumers. Citizens need to be able to purchase goods from another Member State as easily as within their own country. They should have access to the best products at the most competitive price from across Europe – while of course still benefiting from the high standards of consumer protection they are used to. The Common European Sales Law will help us to achieve just that.
It is therefore vital that we take the debate on this legislative project forward. The ideas, suggestions, as well as the reservations shared by you at this conference are important contributions to this debate, and I want to thank you for them.
But time has come for political decisions. This proposal has been on the table for nearly three years now. Whereas the European Parliament has agreed on a position, Member States have been stalling.
Together with the Italian Presidency, the European Commission stands ready to work with all Members to advance and conclude negotiations. The European Parliament has limited the scope to online and distance contracts. I do not see this as a limitation – but rather as an opportunity to bring the file forward.
We need to use every means to boost our economy and job creation. We owe it to our citizens. The Common European Sales Law and EU justice policy more broadly are powerful enablers of growth. La Politica UE della giustizia è politica di crescita. Usiamola!