The single market at 30: a major achievement, but also unfinished business


Statement by Ms Christa Schweng, President of the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC), and Mr Alain Coheur, President of the EESC’s Section for the Single Market, Production and Consumption. 

The single market is Europe’s greatest success story and a cornerstone of European integration. It gave EU businesses access to a domestic market of almost 450 million people, and it stimulated trade and competition, fuelled economic growth and brought wealth and cohesion for all Europeans.

Nevertheless, as it turns 30, the single market remains a work in progress.

Tear down the barriers! Removing regulatory barriers and obstacles to trade within the single market should be our priority. At the same time, we should identify and respond to the difficulties faced by SMEs (especially very small businesses) when accessing the single market. Policy-makers must provide a clear legal framework for digital and green technologies, ease access to investments and cut red tape.

We welcome the European Commission’s efforts to tackle these challenges with its Communication on the Single market at 30. We are ready to actively contribute to those efforts and work hand in hand with our institutional partners towards a stronger European single market.

Crisis-proofing. The recent crises, be it the COVID-19 pandemic or the Russian invasion of Ukraine, have revealed the single market’s vulnerability to disruptions. One thing is clear now: the single market must remain operational at all times and for all European citizens and businesses, including during any new, unforeseen or unexpected future crises. We need to be able to counteract all possible breakdowns quickly, including those arising from shortages in the global supply chain and dependencies on third countries for critical raw materials.

Competitiveness. The EESC considers that one of the main priorities of the single market should be enhancing its competitiveness, while also promoting a socially responsible Europe.

We believe that only a competitive Europe can create prosperity and wellbeing, as well as sustainable solutions to climate and environmental problems. It is thus vital to provide EU businesses with a favourable environment in which to innovate, invest and trade, including a level playing field with foreign competitors. The current discussions around the US Inflation Reduction Act are again an opportunity for the EU to act as one to ensure fair competition for its industry.

Part of the solution. Finally, we strongly believe that constructive social and civic dialogue is essential for the successful completion of our single market. Together, we must build a sustainable, just and inclusive future for Europe: for the benefit of businesses of all sizes and of our people, and to boost the EU’s strategic autonomy.

While many challenges lie ahead, organisations representing industry, SMEs and civil society as a whole should have a central and greater role in rising to those challenges, because they can make constructive contributions to EU policy-making. Organised civil society is part of the solution.

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