Saturday, 25 March 2017

Single Market Act II reception


The year 2012 was the year of the 20th anniversary of the internal market (single market) and the birth of the SMA II:

Single Market Act II - Together for new growth; Brussels, 3.10.2012 COM(2012) 573 final (24 pages)

Today is the 60th anniversary of the signing of the Rome Treaties, but we continue to follow the efforts to improve the internal market during the 2010s. Here we look at the SMA II reception by the European Council (EUCO) and the Competitiveness Council late 2012.


European Council October 2012  

Under the Compact for Growth and Jobs, the European Council conclusions 18-19 October 2012 EUCO 156/12 encouraged the adoption of Single Market Act I and Single Market Act II proposals, as well as actions to improve transport, energy and telecommunications networks, plus a “fully functioning” Digital Single Market:

2. The European Council remains determined to stimulate growth and jobs, in the context of the Europe 2020 Strategy. The Compact for Growth and Jobs, decided last June, constitutes the overall framework for action at national, euro and EU levels, mobilising all levers, instruments and policies. All the commitments it outlines must be fully and rapidly delivered. Significant progress has been achieved so far, as shown in the letter from the President of the European Council of 8 October 2012 as well as in the reports from the Presidency and the Commission. However, greater efforts are required in certain areas, as set out below.
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(b) Deepening the Single Market: progress has been made on the Single Market Act I, but more efforts are required to complete work on the outstanding proposals including on accounting, professional qualifications, public procurement and venture capital funds. The Commission's new communication on the Single Market Act II sets out 12 further key actions which should contribute much to sustainable European growth, employment and social cohesion. The European Council welcomes the Commission's intention to present all key SMA II proposals by spring 2013 and calls for their rapid examination in order to allow their adoption by the end of the current parliamentary cycle at the latest. It is also important to take urgent action in line with the Commission's communications on implementation of the Services Directive and on Single Market governance.

(c) Connecting Europe: the future Connecting Europe Facility will constitute an important instrument to promote growth through investment in transport, energy and ICT links. In the field of transport, eliminating regulatory barriers and tackling bottlenecks and missing cross-border links is essential in order to guarantee the efficient operation of the Single Market and promote competitiveness and growth. Digital technologies and infrastructures are also an essential prerequisite. Recalling the need to complete the internal energy market fully by 2014 in accordance with the agreed deadlines and to ensure that no Member State remains isolated from the European gas and electricity networks after 2015, the European Council calls for rapid agreement on the proposal on energy TENs and looks forward to the forthcoming Commission communication and Action Plan to address the prevailing challenges.

(d) Achieving a fully functioning Digital Single Market by 2015: this could generate an additional growth of 4% over the period up to 2020. The European Council therefore calls for work to be accelerated on the proposals on e-signature and collective rights management and looks forward to the forthcoming proposals on reducing the cost of the deployment of high speed broadband and on e-invoicing. The forthcoming midterm review of the Digital Agenda should be used to identify areas where more work needs to be done. It is necessary to modernise Europe's copyright regime to facilitate access to content while upholding intellectual property rights and encouraging creativity and cultural diversity.



Competitiveness Council December 2012

The Competitiveness (Internal Market, Industry, Research and Space) 10-11 December 2012 conclusions 17410/12 recorded progress regarding SMA I proposals, such as the unitary patent, public procurement rules, resolution of consumer disputes, professional qualifications and accounting rules (pages 9-14), but also adopted conclusions on the SMA II (page 15):

Single Market Act IICouncil conclusions

The Council adopted conclusions on the second set of new priority proposals presented by the Commission on 3 October 2012 under the "Single Market Act II".

These proposals will supplement the first set of measures of the Single Market Act I package for deepening and strengthening the single market in order to create economic growth and jobs.

Inter alia, the conclusions highlight the need for the single market to rest upon a strong economic and social basis and the importance for the SMA II actions to address the concerns of citizens and businesses.

The conclusions are set out in document 16617/12.

From the general conclusions to the specific conclusions in Council document 16617/12, prepared earlier by Coreper, but formally adopted by the ministers:

Draft Council conclusions on the Single Market Act II - Together for new Growth 16617/12 (about four pages of text between the cover note and the annex list)

The Competitiveness Council called on the Commission to table the SMA II proposals and encouraged the member states and the European Parliament to adopt them before the end of the parliamentary term etc., but here I want to highlight the viewpoints on the integration of single market progress into the economic governance cycle called the European Semester, plus the need to monitor SMA I and SMA II progress:

11. STRESSES the need for its stronger role on Single Market issues in the context of the European Semester process with regard to sustainable growth and competitiveness enhancing measures, including the governance of the Single Market and, where appropriate, the adoption and implementation of the key actions of the SMA I and SMA II. Moreover, WELCOMES the Commission's first Annual Report on the State of the Single Market Integration, including the identification of actions in priority areas; and LOOKS FORWARD to the timely discussion of every annual Report in the Competitiveness Council and its preparatory bodies in the framework of the European Semester process.

12. UNDERLINES the need to monitor closely the progress on the key proposals of the SMA I and SMA II and in this regard INVITES the Commission to present a semi-annual report for discussion in the High Level Group on Competitiveness and Growth and subsequently in the Council; where progress is insufficient, ENCOURAGES the Presidency to take all necessary steps to speed up the process.



European Council December 2012

The 13-14 December 2012 European Council conclusions EUCO 205/12 bundled together its comments on the SMA I and the SMA II. EUCO also commented on the efforts to streamline business regulation:


17. The completion of the Single Market can contribute much to growth and jobs and constitutes a key element of the EU's response to the financial, economic and social crisis. The European Council took stock of the state of play as regards the priority proposals of the Single Market Act I and welcomed the agreement reached among participating Member States on the Unitary Patent as well as the agreement on Alternative Dispute Resolution and Online Dispute Resolution for consumer disputes. It calls on the co-legislators to conclude the remaining SMA I files as a matter of urgency. In particular, work should be speeded up on professional qualifications, public procurement, posting of workers and e-signature and e-identification. As regards the Single Market Act II, the European Council calls on the Commission to present all key proposals by the spring of 2013. It invites the Council and the European Parliament to give these proposals the highest priority with a view to their adoption by the end of the current parliamentary cycle at the latest. It is also important to take urgent action in line with the Commission's communications on implementation of the Services Directive and on Single Market governance. The European Council will keep progress on all single market proposals under close review.

18. The European Council calls for the rapid examination of the Commission's communication on "Smart Regulation" and looks forward to the publication of the first SME scoreboard. The European Council welcomes the proposals by the Commission to reduce regulatory burdens and scrap regulations that are no longer of use as part of its overall approach to "Smart Regulation". It looks forward to concrete progress and a report back at its March 2013 meeting.


Ralf Grahn



General sources:

General Report on the Activities of the European Union - 2012 (free to download at the EU Bookshop in all the official EU languages)

General Report on the Activities of the European Union - 2013 (you can download the annual report freely in your chosen EU language at the EU Bookshop)
Regeringens skrivelse 2013/14:115 Verksamheten i Europeiska unionen under 2013

Friday, 24 March 2017

Single Market Act II

One day before the EU27 Rome declaration I want to start this blog post by quoting two paragraphs from the 2012 Single Market Act II communication spelling out why even the incomplete European Union we have is better than secession for increasingly mobile people and businesses (page 9):

The mobility of citizens and businesses is at the heart of European integration and the Single Market. The Commission will continue to work towards its vision of a Single Market where citizens, workers and businesses are free to move cross-border whenever and wherever they want to and without unjustified restrictions imposed by divergent national rules and regulations. Mobility is a precondition for the Single Market to deliver on its potential, be it social, cultural, political or economic.

The price of low mobility is high. Despite the fact that unfilled job vacancies have been rising since mid-2009, unemployment is at record levels in many Member States. At the same time, the cross-border mobility of businesses is hampered by difficulties to finance new business projects and by administrative burden. While the EU's better regulation agenda has led to an improvement of the business environment, a constant focus on the reduction of unnecessary regulatory and administrative burden must be maintained. Important next steps towards our common vision are therefore to match labour demand and supply cross-border, improve the access to finance and advance the business environment in Europe.

Instead of building walls and creating obstacles, the EU tries to open gates and decrease cross-border problems.


Single Market Act II

After the compilation Single Market Act blog posts and the latest entry Single Market concerns, it is time to advance to the second package: the Single Market Act II.

In the autumn of 2012 the European Commission published a communication about  its second set of internal market proposals. The SMA II birth was the moment the original SMA became the SMA I:
Single Market Act II - Together for new growth; Brussels, 3.10.2012 COM(2012) 573 final (24 pages)  

Four drivers for new growth were identified for the new package (page 5):  

1. Developing fully integrated networks in the Single Market (pages 6-9)
2. Fostering mobility of citizens and businesses across borders (pages 9-12)  
3. Supporting the digital economy across Europe (page 12-15)
4. Strengthening social entrepreneurship, cohesion and consumer confidence (page 15-17)

In the concluding remarks the Commission summarised the aims and presented a timetable (page 17):

The Single Market Act II sets out twelve immediate priorities, which the Commission will focus on to support growth, employment and confidence in the Single Market. They constitute the next steps towards our vision of a highly competitive social market economy. We need to act jointly, in particular among the European institutions and with Member States, to put them into practice as soon as possible. The Commission commits to deliver all key legislative proposals by spring 2013 and all key non-legislative actions by the end of that year at the latest. The Commission calls on the European Parliament and the Council to fast-track all key legislative actions and adopt them as a priority by spring 2014.


The twelve SMA II priority actions (the same number as in the SMA I) listed on pages 18-19:


Developing fully integrated networks in the Single Market

1 Rail transport: Adopt a fourth railway package to improve the quality and cost efficiency of rail passenger services

2 Maritime transport: Adopt the "Blue Belt" package to establish a true Single Market for maritime transport  

3 Air transport: Accelerate the implementation of the Single European Sky through a new package of actions  

4 Energy: Implement an action plan to improve the implementation and enforcement of the third energy package


Fostering mobility of citizens and businesses across borders  

5 Mobility of citizens: Develop the EURES portal into a true European placement and recruitment tool  

6 Access to finance: Boost long-term investment in the real economy by facilitating access to long-term investment funds  

7 Business environment: Modernise EU insolvency rules to facilitate the survival of businesses and present a second chance for entrepreneurs  


Supporting the digital economy across Europe  

8 Services: Revise the Payment Services Directive and make a proposal for multilateral interchange fees to make payment services in the EU more efficient  

9 Digital Single Market: Adopt common rules to reduce cost and increase efficiency in the deployment of high speed broadband  

10 Public procurement and electronic invoicing: Adopt legislation making electronic invoicing the standard invoicing mode for public procurement


Strengthening social entrepreneurship, cohesion and consumer confidence  

11 Consumers: Improve the safety of products circulating in the EU through a revised General Product Safety Directive, a new single Regulation on Market Surveillance and a flanking action plan

12 Social cohesion and social entrepreneurship: Adopt a legislative initiative to give all EU citizens access to a basic payment account, ensure bank account fees are transparent and comparable and make switching bank accounts easier



Ralf Grahn


General sources:

General Report on the Activities of the European Union - 2012 (free to download at the EU Bookshop in all the official EU languages)

Single Market concerns

The Single Market Act II had been anticipated by the European Parliament, the European Council and the Council (of ministers) of the EU. We have presented their contributions in various blog entries, some of them found in the compilation Single Market Act blog posts.  

Here we look at one more contribution, this from the European Commission.


Citizens’ and businesses’ 20 main concerns

In 2011 the European Commission published The Single Market through the lens of the people: A snapshot of citizens’ and businesses’ 20 main concerns (27 pages), an analysis made of queries and complaints handled by the Commission and assistance services such as SOLVIT, Your Europe Advice, the European Consumer Centres, the European Employment Service and the Enterprise Europe Network, then checked with statistically representative data and refined through focus groups.

This was one of the contributions going into the making of the Single Market Act II.

Problems for mobile citizens

  • Cumbersome social security procedures discourage citizens’ mobility
  • Citizens receiving healthcare abroad are often frustrated when receiving the bill
  • Obtaining a residence card in another Member State for non-EU family members is too complex
  • Professionals have difficulties getting their qualifications recognised in another Member State
  • Workers can be victims of discriminatory employment practices in another Member State
  • Tax barriers för cross-border workers and employers
  • Opening a bank account abroad remains too difficult
  • Students facing discrimination regarding recognition of diplomas, fees, and financial support
  • Retiring abroad and inheriting across borders leads to complex taxation issues
  • Taking a car to another Member State is costly and burdensome
  • Passengers find it difficult to defend their rights

Problems for consumers

  • Consumers do not easily find their way in banking and financial services markets
  • Europeans do not feel comfortable shopping on-line in other Member States
  • In spite of an increased choice, many Europeans are frustrated by their energy bills
  • Internet and telephone services could be better and cheaper

Problems for businesses

  • Businesses are discouraged from participating in foreign public tenders
  • Access to finance and support measures is too challenging
  • Burdensome rules and procedures prevent entrepreneurs and investors from doing business in another country
  • Reclaiming VAT paid in another Member State is cumbersome
  • Fighting for your intellectual property rights in a cross-border context remains very difficult


The brochure ended by referring EU citizens and businesses encountering problems to the Your Europe web pages and by describing the help and information services available (pages 26-27):

SOLVIT – a network created in 2002 to solve cross-border problems encountered by citizens and businesses due to incorrect application of EU rules by national public authorities, without formal procedures and within ten weeks. In 2010 SOLVIT handled almost 3 800 cases, of which 1 363 fell within its remit;

Your Europe Advice (YEA) – a network of experienced multilingual lawyers from all EU Member States who provide answers to European citizens’ legal questions regarding the exercise of their EU rights in cross-border mobility situations. In 2010, YEA experts handled more than 12 000 queries;

Enterprise Europe Network (EEN) – a network created to provide European businesses with transnational business cooperation, to benefit from the Single Market and to provide their feedback to legislation (SME panels). The network is made up of 600 support service organisations involving more than 3 000 staff in 50 countries;

European Consumer Centres (ECCs) – a network created to provide consumers with information and help in dispute resolution, to enable them to take full advantage of the Single Market, in particular with regard to cross-border issues. The European Consumer Centres network handles over 70 000 cases every year;
Europe Direct Contact Centre (EDCC) – the European Commission’s multilingual central information service, accessible by free-phone, email or web-chat, which provides answers to questions from the public concerning general information on the European Union’s activities and policies, and guides citizens to the sources of information and advice that best meet their needs. Out of 100 000 enquiries handled overall in 2010, about 30 000 were related to cross-border issues and 5 200 were transferred to the legal experts of Your Europe Advice for further assistance;
European Employment Service (EURES) – a network of more than 850 employment advisors who help match jobs to jobseekers across Europe.



Ralf Grahn



General sources:

General Report on the Activities of the European Union 2011 (freely downloadable at the EU Bookshop in all the official EU languages)
General Report on the Activities of the European Union - 2012 (free to download at the EU Bookshop in all the official EU languages)


Regeringens skrivelse 2012/13:80 Berättelse om verksamheten i Europeiska unionen under 2012

Single Market Act blog posts

Here are the latest blog entries on the Single Market Act (SMA) in Finnish (FI), Swedish (SV) and English (EN), excluding those concerning the highly competitive social market economy and the European social pillar:













Ralf Grahn



General sources:

General Report on the Activities of the European Union 2011 (freely downloadable at the EU Bookshop in all the official EU languages)
General Report on the Activities of the European Union - 2012 (free to download at the EU Bookshop in all the official EU languages)

Regeringens skrivelse 2012/13:80 Berättelse om verksamheten i Europeiska unionen under 2012

Sunday, 19 March 2017

Single Market Act in Competitiveness Council

After the blog posts presenting the Single Market Act SMA and the promised main proposals listed in Twelve Single Market key actions, we return to the follow-up of the (first) Single Market Act (SMA), published by the European Commission in April 2011.  


Competitiveness Council
We take a quick look in the rear-view mirror on the Competitiveness Council 30 May 2011 and the European Council (EUCO) 23 to 24 June 2011 through the blog post European Council on growth and jobs, before heading back to the Council conclusions:

Competitiveness (Internal Market, Industry, Research and Space); Brussels, 30 and 31 May 2011; document 10547/11

Here we are interested in the general conclusions on the Single Market Act (page 8):

Single Market Act - Council conclusions

The Council held a debate and adopted conclusions on the implementation of the "Single Market Act" (SMA), which is a two-year plan (2011-2012) of 50 initiatives aimed at ensuring continuous optimisation of the internal market and contributing to the successful implementation of the Europe 2020 objectives on stimulating employment and economic growth (13977/1/10).

In the light of the outcome of a public consultation, the Commission submitted on 13 April 2011 a communication identifying the 12 levers that can best contribute to tapping the single market's potential for growth and employment. Moreover, the communication sets out a timetable for the adoption of each lever (9283/11).

The 12 levers for growth and social progress include actions in the areas of workers' mobility, financing for small and medium-sized enterprises, consumer protection, the digital single market, energy taxation and trans-European networks.

Among other things, the conclusions invite the Commission to put forward all these key actions before the end of 2011 and calls on all actors to commit themselves to adopting a first set of priority measures to give a new impetus to the single market by 2012.

10993/11

Because the language of the two first paragraphs was a little vague, I want to clarify the exact references:

The first document number 13977/1/10 REV 1 (en) referred to the new English version of Commission consultation paper, the communication Towards a Single Market Act COM (2010) 608 final.
The second document mentioned 9283/11 referred to Single Market Act COM(2011) 206 final, the SMA proper, published 13 April 2011.


Specific SMA conclusions

The document 10993/11 referred to the specific and quite detailed Competition Council conclusions on the Priorities for Relaunching the Single Market adopted by the Council of 30 May 2011 (10 pages).

I am going to take just a few picks.

The Council stressed the need to further enhance the coherence and complementarities between the internal and international trade (policies) of the European Union (page 5).

The ministers underlined the key role the single market has to play in delivering growth and employment and promoting competitiveness. They made a clear reference to the union’s Article 3(3) TEU social market economy goal, when they mentioned that the Single Market must rest upon a strong economic and social basis with a view to building a highly competitive social market economy (page 5).

The conclusions went on to dedicate a paragraph to each of the SMA key actions, offering varying degrees of support: from enthusiastic to a promise to give due consideration to a coming proposal.

In the world of administration, even more so at a more complex international level, the machinery requires constant attention and perfecting (page 9):

17. UNDERLINES the importance of strengthening governance of the Single Market thus ensuring a level playing field for all in the Single Market through effective, efficient and uniform enforcement of Single Market rules; in this respect:

- INVITES the Commission to continue the work on the governance aspects of the Single Market;
- CALLS ON the Member States to fully implement Single Market rules including the Services Directive;
- UNDERLINES the importance of the SOLVIT and IMI systems;
- furthermore COMMITS ITSELF, and INVITES the European Parliament and the Commission to avoid creating unnecessary burdens in legislative proposals in general;

The Competitiveness Council, having urged the Commission to submit on a yearly basis a progress report on implementation, could not wait to get its hands on the proposals (page 9):

19. INVITES the Commission to put forward all key action proposals as soon as possible but before the end of 2011 and in line with the timing put forward in the Single Market Act so as to facilitate their full consideration within the deadlines proposed, whilst ensuring they take full account of the principles of proportionality and subsidiarity;

Finally, the Council started looking towards a second Single Market Act (SMA II) (page 10):

22. INVITES the Commission to take stock of the progress achieved, to conduct a comprehensive economic study to identify specific areas with untapped growth potential and to launch a new stage in the development of the Single Market by the end of 2012 with the aim of further deepening it.

So far, so good.


Ralf Grahn



General sources:

General Report on the Activities of the European Union 2011 (An open and fair internal market, legislative proposals listed on page 46, text on pages 45-)

Regeringens skrivelse 2011/12:105 Berättelse om verksamheten i Europeiska unionen under 2011 (Den inre marknadens utveckling etc., pages 166-178)