Monday 28 November 2016

The Single Market Strategy in the EU Competitiveness Council

The first day, 28 November 2016, of the EU Competitiveness Council was dedicated to issues relating to the internal market and industry. Despite more concrete news items available, I am going to approach the horizontal issue of the Single Market Strategy.

Single Market Strategy

Thirteen months ago the European Commission published the new single market strategy (available in 23 of the 24 official EU languages): Upgrading the Single Market: more opportunities for people and business; Brussels, 28.10.2015 COM(2015) 550 final (22 pages).

The communication was accompanied by two staff working documents, available in English only, but with more detailed facts and reasons.

The economic and competitiveness analysis is contained in SWD(2015) 203, available through the legal portal Eur-Lex in three parts, but more conveniently downloaded from a Commission web page as a “printed” whole document: Single market integration and competitiveness in the EU and its member states - Report 2015 (112 pages).

The second Commission staff working document is A Single Market Strategy for Europe - Analysis and Evidence; Brussels, 28.10.2015 SWD(2015) 202 final (108 pages).

For a structured overview you may want to study the Commission web page The Single Market Strategy.

Competitiveness Council

In order to prepare the discussion in the Competitiveness Council 28 November 2016, the Slovakian presidency had prepared a discussion paper: Single Market: One year after Single Market Strategy adoption (document 14246/16).

After a brief description of the Single Market and the Single Market Strategy, the discussion paper summarised some of the progress and future work:

C. Progress so far

The Commission has delivered first initiatives identified in the Single Market Strategy. In May 2016, the Commission adopted its legislative proposal to prevent discrimination against consumers based on nationality or residence (initiative on geo-blocking), as part of the e-commerce package. In June 2016, the Commission adopted a Standardisation package, which included the Joint Initiative on Standardisation (presented in the Competitiveness Council of 28 September) and a dedicated guidance document on service standards. The Commission also adopted a European agenda for the collaborative economy in June 2016. This Communication identifies good practice solutions and explains how existing EU law should be applied; clarifying key issues faced by market operators and public authorities alike, namely market access requirements, consumer protection, liability, labour law and tax. Moreover, in November 2016, the Commission will adopt the Start-Up initiative, a communication that aims at helping young firms to scale up and grow in the Single Market.

D. Steps forward

Many of the initiatives have not yet been adopted by the Commission. The Commission plans to deliver some important proposals and packages in the remainder of 2016. Towards the end of the year the adoption of the services package is foreseen. The package will include a proposal to improve the notification procedure for legislation with regard to services, a proposal for a European Services Card (identified as the Services passport initiative by the Single Market Strategy), which is to improve the cross-border provision of services and initiatives on regulated professions, such as a proportionality test to be applied when developing new legislation in this field and guidance to Member States on the matter of regulated professions.  

The Commission will continue adopting the remaining initiatives announced in the Single Market Strategy in 2017. These include a review of the intellectual property rights enforcement framework (IPRED), a Compliance and assistance package, including the Single Digital Gateway, the Single Market Information Tool and the Action Plan for SOLVIT. This will be followed by a Goods package, including initiatives regarding mutual recognition and addressing the increased rate of noncompliance within the Single Market for Goods. Also in 2017 the Commission will present a Public Procurement package including the voluntary ex-ante mechanism for large infrastructure projects. Finally, the Commission is planning to publish a Communication setting out best practices to facilitate retail establishment within the Single Market.
The presidency tried to structure and to focus the discussion by providing the following questions to the national delegations:

E. Questions for discussion

1. What is your assessment with regards to the implementation and the progress achieved so far concerning the Single Market Strategy?

2. Where do you see the biggest potential to inject new dynamism into the Single Market, to the benefit of EU consumers and the EU's industrial competitiveness?

3. How can the Council help ensure the swift and ambitious implementation of the Single Market Strategy?

The press conference wrapping up the first day (internal market and industry; 28 november 2016; webcast 17:05) emphasised the sense of urgency among ministers to achieve progress on the single market.  

Ralf Grahn

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