Fabian Demicoli

Creating Consensus: Civil Society can help to guide the Single Market

The Single Market has undoubtedly brought widespread benefits to Europe. We have seen greater clarity in trading conditions across the continent, leading to a reduction in costs for both businesses and consumers. However, despite this success there have been a number of challenges to the prosperity of the Single Market. A rapidly changing global environment compounded by the financial and economic crisis has demanded a comprehensive response. The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC), the EU body representing organised civil society, remains a crucial partner in formulating this response.

 

Consultation and dialogue with civil society is a priority in the preparation and implementation of new measures. The European Economic and Social Committee was the first EU body to formally respond to the Single Market Act from Commissioner Barnier. This demonstrates how civil society can react swiftly, whilst consulting with all of its components from the earliest stage in the search for a real consensus.

The Single Market Act is only the start of a long term process to revive the Single Market. The EESC has identified a number of measures that are missing in the Single Market Act covering issues such as copyright levies, data protection, investor protection, the social progress protocol, European private company statutes, e-procurement, European credit rating agencies, micro- and family businesses, credit and debit cards, e-payments, consumer credit and over-indebtedness, interbank transfers and others. It will make proposals in due course and issue detailed positions when the European Commission proposals emerge, including evaluating proposals related to the EU 2020 flagship initiatives. The EESC insists on the need for a holistic approach that goes beyond the artificial division of the Single Market Act into three pillars. The Committee aims at remedying the eclectic nature of the proposals by suggesting more coherence and mutual interdependence of individual measures. The proposals are complementary in that they interact with one another and impact on society at large: workers, consumers, businesses and citizens alike. There is no specific Single Market for each of these categories.

Monitoring, managing and enforcing Single Market legislation is crucial. To achieve this, the European Commission should cooperate closely with Member States through better use of the Single Market Scoreboard.

Whilst being aware of missing policies in the Commission package, the Committee has focused on the following bundles of measures – these clusters being the result of the interdependence between the individual proposals – that are seen as clear priorities:

The Charter of Fundamental Rights as an integral part of the Single Market (29);

Services (4, 40 and 43);

Retail financial services (41);

Services of General Interest – SGI (25);

Sustainable development (10, 11 and 27);

Small and medium-sized enterprises and other legal forms of entrepreneurship (12, 13 and 14);

Competitiveness (19, 20 and 21);

Standardisation (6);

Digital Single Market (2, 5 and 22);

Corporate Governance and workers involvement (36, 37, 38);

Free movement of workers and the economic freedoms (30);

Public Procurement Legislation (17);

External dimension (24);

Access to justice/collective redress (46).

Open communication on the added value and challenges is of paramount importance in order to gain public support. It is important to take into account the reality on the ground and the real concerns of citizens. The input of organised civil society is indispensable as well as the involvement of national governments that have to take into consideration that the Single Market is an integral part of our domestic economies. Political parties, the media, educational institutions and all other stakeholders have a historical responsibility in relation to the EU being able to successfully cope with the challenges of the global world based on the values that so far have characterised our social market economies. The world will not wait for us. Europe's fragmentation, protectionism, nationalism and lack of vision will not allow us to compete with the new global powers.

This is an official article issued by the EESC in occasion of the adoption of the EESC Opinion on the Single Market Act. GRTU's Director General Vincent Farrugia is an EESC Group I member.

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