Elżbieta Bieńkowska - Commissioner for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs
Single Market Forum
Introduction: we need to put Europe back to work
Ladies and gentlemen,
This forum brings to an end a series of twenty workshops on the future of the Single Market.
Workshops across the four corners of Europe.
The exercise was launched by the previous European Commission and European Parliament.
They had a simple idea.
To listen to people trying to benefit from the Single Market.
Consumers looking to buy goods and services.
Professionals looking to offer their services.
Businesses looking to go cross border.
I want to praise my predecessor, Michel Barnier, and Madam Chair Ford's predecessor, Malcolm Harbour for their foresight.
I want to thank the Greek, Italian and Latvian presidencies for their support.
They have put us in an excellent position.
Today I will talk about the results of the exercise and how we go forward.
But I want to be clear.
In the European Commission, we are not pursuing the Single Market for its own sake.
We are pursuing it because we want to create opportunities for businesses and consumers.
And above all, jobs.
We need to put Europe back to work.
People want jobs, not action plans.
Everything that we do on the Single Market should be about helping to create those opportunities and jobs.
- We have to do more
Ladies and gentlemen: this is not Year Zero for the Single Market.
It is Year Twenty-Three.
We have accomplished quite a lot.
More choices and lower prices for consumers.
Many of the companies that we will hear from today would not have existed without the chances created by the Single Market.
Many of them would not have been able to grow as much.
And the Single Market has created freedoms. That means a lot to someone with my background.
But we have to do more.
For many in Europe, the Single Market is becoming a dirty term.
Too many think that it is just about big business.
Too many think that it allows foreigners to come and take their jobs.
We have to address those concerns.
And even those who support the Single Market feel frustrated.
Many businesses feel let down.
The workshops showed that very clearly.
We heard about problems accessing information.
In one Member State, there are nine different regional laws relevant to the construction sector.
How are you supposed to navigate through that?
We heard about lengthy registration and authorisation procedures.
A construction company told us that to carry out a project in one EEA member, they had to secure twelve separate authorisations.
None of these authorisations could be secured online.
Many documents had to be sent by post.
We heard about problems with insurance requirements.
We heard that some design work in one Member State required a particular type of insurance which cost six per cent of fees.
And we heard that insurance companies in that country would only provide it to companies from that country.
I could go on, but you get my point.
There were some good news stories.
We heard about Member States who had liberalised access to professions. The result has been increased employment.
I should admit that one of these was Poland.
But we heard too many examples of businesses frustrated by unnecessary requirements.
Every extra requirement is a small weight on the back of business.
One, two, three small weights and the business can run just about smoothly.
Ten, twenty, thirty and it will run badly.
A hundred, a thousand, and it will go bankrupt.
All this is a great employment scheme for lawyers and accountants.
But it's not the best recipe for jobs and economic recovery.
This has got to change.
- We are looking at what we can do
Ladies and gentlemen, we are in early days in this Commission.
I am five months into a five year term.
Our approach will be ambitious but it will also be based on hard evidence.
You have seen that with our proposal for a European Strategic Investment Fund.
You have seen that with our proposals on Energy Union.
And you will see that in what we propose for the Digital Single Market and Internal Market Strategy.
Our approach will be coherent. Each strategy or action will build on the others.
On the Digital Single Market, we estimate that full integration could create up to 340 billion Euros of additional growth in Europe over the next ten years.
It could deliver hundreds of thousands of new jobs.
So a strategy is one of the priorities of this Commission.
We will unveil our plans on 6 May.
Our approach will be ambitious.
We will strike a balance between ensuring that consumers are fully protected and giving them the right to buy.
We will strike a balance on e-commerce, giving businesses the freedom to offer services cross-border whilst ensuring legal certainty.
We will strike a balance, allowing businesses the freedom to innovate but also ensuring common standards so that they can work together.
One key area is parcel delivery.
Retailers want seamless, affordable and convenient cross-border parcel delivery. So do consumers.
As part of this, last year CEOs of postal companies promised to sort this out.
I have invited them back next month to see where we are.
We need to make progress.
And we need to focus on affordability. We are looking at options for how to deliver this.
But this is not just about our digital economy, it is about our wider economy.
We cannot separate them.
The Digital Economy is a means, not an end.
One day we will no more talk about a Digital Economy than we today talk about a Phone Economy or a Fax Economy.
So this Autumn, we will come forward with a much wider Single Market Strategy covering goods and services.
The input from these workshops has been hugely valuable.
We are thinking hard about how best to use the strategy.
But let me list a few areas that we are looking at.
We are looking at how we can address the information gaps that I referred to.
Businesses need all the information in one place.
They need them to be clear.
In particular, we are looking at whether we need to reform the Points of Single Contact in the Services Directive.
Linked to this, we are looking at what we can do on administrative requirements and lengthy procedures.
How can e-government help with this?
We are looking at how we can encourage innovative businesses without favouring one business model over another.
A key aspect of this is the sharing economy.
Properly managed, the sharing economy could create additional growth and jobs.
It is already benefitting consumers by offering them social interaction and cheaper alternatives to services and goods.
But there are concerns over consumer protection, taxes and other obligations.
We need to consider these carefully.
I want to have an open debate with industry, consumers and national authorities on how best to do this.
But we should not obsess with strategies and action plans.
There will be areas where we can act quickly without waiting for a strategy paper.
Since last year, Member States have been carrying out a mutual evaluation exercise on regulated professions.
They have been assessing all their rules and restrictions.
Do they make sense?
Are they still necessary?
Are they proportionate?
For each of the professions, they are looking at whether they should:
- Replace; or
They will issue reports from the start of next year. We expect serious analysis on whether and where reforms are needed. Peer pressure between Member States can and should play a big role.
Another example is helping SMEs.
As we have seen, too many businesses find it too hard to access clear information.
So today, we launch an online tool called "10 Things to know when doing business online".
In the panel session coming up, Pierre Delsaux will provide details.
It is a small step but it is a practical step.
I am confident that businesses will find it useful.
3. But it is not just what we do, it is how we do it
But we are not just looking at what we do.
We are changing how we do it.
First, our approach will cover the whole policy cycle.
Once proposals are adopted, they must be implemented effectively.
We are reviewing our approach to enforcement to target our efforts.
But it also means Member States complying with the spirit of the law, not just the letter.
It means ensuring that that companies and consumers actually benefit.
Second, we have to break a fixation with legislation.
We have to look at alternatives.
In some areas, a better route would be to encourage Member States to take structural reforms through the European Semester process.
In it, we issue recommendations to individual Member States in key areas. This can be very effective where there are issues specific to one country rather than across Europe.
The next set of recommendations is due in May.
I have just come from Paris, where I had good discussions with French authorities.
We should build on this.
We should look at how we can better integrate our Single Market objectives into the Semester.
Particularly for areas such as professional qualifications.
And third, we must recognise that the European Commission cannot act on its own.
There will be areas where Member States are better placed to act.
There will be areas where companies, consumers and other stakeholders are best placed.
And above all, there will be a large number of areas where we have to work together.
Each of us can provide part of the solution.
None of us can deliver alone.
Conclusion: time for 'Marketplace Europe'?
To do that, we have to listen to each other.
And that brings me back to what I said at the start.
These workshops have been a listening exercise.
And today, we want to hear more from you.
Because by doing so, we will best identify the right solutions.
Solutions that create the jobs and opportunities that we seek.
Ladies and gentlemen: one parting thought.
Maybe it is time to rethink the whole idea of the Single Market.
In addition to the barriers that we want to get rid of, we need to focus on the opportunities that we want to create.
Maybe it is time to think of it not as a 'Single' or 'Internal' Market.
But as a 'marketplace'.
Where businesses of all sizes can connect freely with consumers.
Where they can agree on the right products and services at the right price.
And where they can do so on the basis of transparency and trust.