This year, the Single Market turns 30. In 1988, Jacques Delors famously remarked that “nobody falls in love with a Common Market”. Yet, Europeans wholeheartedly appreciate the comforts this market brought them, such as uniform passenger rights. However, they might not always be aware that they must thank the Single Market for it.
The history of the Single Market is remarkable: after crippling stagflation in the early 1980s, the Single European Act in 1987 and then the Maastricht Treaty gave the EU’s economic integration a new impetus. Since then, the Single Market has harmonised hundreds of pieces of product legislation and has set minimum standards in consumer protection for all European citizens. Over the last fifteen years, the Single Market has been a key tool in making the EU a global leader in digital regulation.
From a fragmented past, the Single Market united Europe. By opening access to goods, services, jobs, business opportunities and cultural richness across the whole continent, it generated prosperity and became a guarantor of new freedoms.
Nevertheless, in the face of Russia’s war against Ukraine and geo-economic tensions, prosperity and freedom can no longer be taken for granted. Moreover, given the United States’ protectionist push to subsidise domestic industries, it is all the more important to keep the Single Market open, to decrease barriers and to foster seamless trade and thus, increase its attractiveness to investors and citizens alike.
Therefore, it is paramount to deepen the Single Market’s integration over the next decade. The benefits of the Single Market for goods for the 440 million European citizens are clear. Consumers can now enjoy more products than ever from all over the EU! On top of that, buying products from whichever EU country you wish has become more easy and citizens can trust that safety standards are the same everywhere. Moreover, only together, in the Single Market, were we able to ensure that the same standards apply online and offline. Our new digital rules, the Digital Markets Act and the Digital Services Act, are a milestone for a new digital economy, with safer online platforms and better online experiences for consumers as well as fair competition on the merits online for businesses. The era of the digital ‘wild west’ has ended. Only Europe could do this! This is what we, the EPP Group, have fought for over the past decade and will now see to have thoroughly enforced over the next ten years! Now, more work must be done to ensure that data-driven business models, quantum computing, Artificial Intelligence and energy markets can benefit from the power of a frictionless Single Market for the EU to become a global leader.
The current geopolitical environment is challenging. The COVID-19 pandemic and Russia’s war against Ukraine have brought back some barriers to trade, and Europeans’ freedoms to work or settle in another country have been drastically limited. The EU needs to learn the right lessons and prepare for the next challenge. The upcoming Single Market Emergency Instrument will prevent situations like border closures, like we saw during the pandemic, prepare supply chains for the next hit and ensure that European citizens have equal access to the goods that are needed during a crisis.
Thus, as the EPP Group, we are confident that the answer to the current challenges are more European cooperation and less barriers, with smart rules adapted to a new digital reality. Only together, with a strong economic backbone, can we Europeans exercise our sovereignty. We fully embrace the challenge of the next decade to not only strengthen the market, but to make sure that every citizen benefits from it. Maybe then, 10 years from now, Jacques Delors’ quip will hold a little less true.