The Single Market is widely recognised as the EU’s greatest asset. It adds €600 billion a year to our economy. But we must now bring all our political will to bear on making it relevant to a digital and global age.
The Services Directive – where I led the charge for liberalised, open markets – was a significant step forward. But this achievement was only the start of economic reform. There is still far too much untapped potential for driving innovation, growth and creating the long term jobs that Europe needs. In particular, small businesses need to be given confidence to offer their products and services to 500 million people across the EU.
A fortnight ago the European Parliament backed a series of resolutions, by massive majorities, to set out the top actions needed to implement a new “Single Market Act”. This political initiative will revitalise the Single Market by ensuring it provides clear benefits to citizens, consumers and businesses. MEP priorities centred on boosting growth, cutting regulation and opening opportunities for businesses and citizens.
The drive to complete the Single Market links directly to the UK Government’s EU strategy to secure sustainable growth. Prime Minister David Cameron, along with other EU leaders, has called for action to complete the Single Market, by focusing on areas such as services, energy and modernisation for the digital age. Conservatives in the European Parliament were at the forefront of the campaign, with the Internal Market Committee, which I chair, taking the lead role.
Looking at the details, MEPs called for the urgent removal of barriers to mobility through better recognition of professional qualifications, a feasibility study on EU-wide professional identity cards, and a ‘European skills passport’. I am pleased that Conservative MEP Emma McClarkin will be leading my Committees’ work in this crucial area. There was a strong call for extension of the roaming regulation, especially for data, to keep mobile communication costs down.
To support innovation and creativity, MEPs also endorsed an EU Patent and improvements to the management of copyright, and for better access to capital markets for small businesses. They backed an overhaul of the public procurement framework to make it less bureaucratic and to encourage innovation. Cross border shoppers will benefit from a swift roll out of legislation on the use of alternative dispute resolution
Having taken on board Parliament’s view, the final Act was released last Wednesday. It’s now our task to ensure that it brings about more opportunities for businesses of all sizes to trade cross-border and take advantage of the digital economy. It must improve choice, drive down prices for consumers and remove administrative restrictions on working or living abroad. The revitalisation of the Single Market must be a top priority in Europe’s economic recovery.