Fabian Demicoli

Europe in 12 lessons – Lesson 5:The Single Market

 The single market – The
single market also called the internal market is one of the EU's greatest
achievements. Restrictions on trade and free competition between member
countries have gradually been eliminated but the single market has not yet
become a single economy. Some sectors (in particular services of general
interest: electricity, water, fuel…) are still subject to national laws.

The
European Economic Community (EEC) abolished customs barriers between member
states to apply a common customs tariff to goods from non-EEC countries.

The
single market benefits all consumers, for example the opening up of national
markets for services has brought down the price of national telephony calls to
a fraction of what they were 10 years ago. EU airlines may now operate air
services on any route within the EU and set fares at any level they choose.
Consequently any routes have opened up and prices have fallen dramatically.

 

Physical barriers

All
border controls within the EU on goods have been abolished, together with
customs controls on people, but the police still carry out random spot checks
as part of the fight against crime and drugs. Following the introduction of the
Schengen Agreement further improvements in this regards were made. Schengen
will be explained further in another lesson.

 

Technical barriers

Since
1979 any product legally manufactured and sold in one member state must be
allowed to be placed on the market in all others. Where services are concerned,
EU countries mutually recognise or coordinate their national rules allowing
people to practice professions such as law, medicine, tourism, banking or
insurance. Freedom of people and practicing professions however still requires
further work.

 

Tax barriers

These
have been reduced by partially aligning national VAT rates.

 

Public contracts

Public
contracts in any EU country are now open to bidders from anywhere in the EU.

 

Competition

The
EU's competition policy is essential for ensuring that, within the European
single market, competition is not only free but also fair. The purpose of this
policy is to prevent any business cartel, any aid from public authorities or
any unfair monopoly from distorting free competition within the single market.

 

Protecting citizens

EU
legislation aims to give al consumers the same degree of financial and health
protection, regardless of where in the EU they live, travel or do shopping.
Europe-wide consumer protection is needed in many other fields too, which is
why there are numerous EU directives on the safety of cosmetics, toys, fireworks,
etc… The EU also takes action to protect consumers from false and misleading
advertising, defective products and abuses in areas such as consumer credit and
mail-order or internet selling.

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