Friday 24 March 2017

Single Market concerns

The Single Market Act II had been anticipated by the European Parliament, the European Council and the Council (of ministers) of the EU. We have presented their contributions in various blog entries, some of them found in the compilation Single Market Act blog posts.  

Here we look at one more contribution, this from the European Commission.

Citizens’ and businesses’ 20 main concerns

In 2011 the European Commission published The Single Market through the lens of the people: A snapshot of citizens’ and businesses’ 20 main concerns (27 pages), an analysis made of queries and complaints handled by the Commission and assistance services such as SOLVIT, Your Europe Advice, the European Consumer Centres, the European Employment Service and the Enterprise Europe Network, then checked with statistically representative data and refined through focus groups.

This was one of the contributions going into the making of the Single Market Act II.

Problems for mobile citizens

  • Cumbersome social security procedures discourage citizens’ mobility
  • Citizens receiving healthcare abroad are often frustrated when receiving the bill
  • Obtaining a residence card in another Member State for non-EU family members is too complex
  • Professionals have difficulties getting their qualifications recognised in another Member State
  • Workers can be victims of discriminatory employment practices in another Member State
  • Tax barriers för cross-border workers and employers
  • Opening a bank account abroad remains too difficult
  • Students facing discrimination regarding recognition of diplomas, fees, and financial support
  • Retiring abroad and inheriting across borders leads to complex taxation issues
  • Taking a car to another Member State is costly and burdensome
  • Passengers find it difficult to defend their rights

Problems for consumers

  • Consumers do not easily find their way in banking and financial services markets
  • Europeans do not feel comfortable shopping on-line in other Member States
  • In spite of an increased choice, many Europeans are frustrated by their energy bills
  • Internet and telephone services could be better and cheaper

Problems for businesses

  • Businesses are discouraged from participating in foreign public tenders
  • Access to finance and support measures is too challenging
  • Burdensome rules and procedures prevent entrepreneurs and investors from doing business in another country
  • Reclaiming VAT paid in another Member State is cumbersome
  • Fighting for your intellectual property rights in a cross-border context remains very difficult

The brochure ended by referring EU citizens and businesses encountering problems to the Your Europe web pages and by describing the help and information services available (pages 26-27):

SOLVIT – a network created in 2002 to solve cross-border problems encountered by citizens and businesses due to incorrect application of EU rules by national public authorities, without formal procedures and within ten weeks. In 2010 SOLVIT handled almost 3 800 cases, of which 1 363 fell within its remit;

Your Europe Advice (YEA) – a network of experienced multilingual lawyers from all EU Member States who provide answers to European citizens’ legal questions regarding the exercise of their EU rights in cross-border mobility situations. In 2010, YEA experts handled more than 12 000 queries;

Enterprise Europe Network (EEN) – a network created to provide European businesses with transnational business cooperation, to benefit from the Single Market and to provide their feedback to legislation (SME panels). The network is made up of 600 support service organisations involving more than 3 000 staff in 50 countries;

European Consumer Centres (ECCs) – a network created to provide consumers with information and help in dispute resolution, to enable them to take full advantage of the Single Market, in particular with regard to cross-border issues. The European Consumer Centres network handles over 70 000 cases every year;
Europe Direct Contact Centre (EDCC) – the European Commission’s multilingual central information service, accessible by free-phone, email or web-chat, which provides answers to questions from the public concerning general information on the European Union’s activities and policies, and guides citizens to the sources of information and advice that best meet their needs. Out of 100 000 enquiries handled overall in 2010, about 30 000 were related to cross-border issues and 5 200 were transferred to the legal experts of Your Europe Advice for further assistance;
European Employment Service (EURES) – a network of more than 850 employment advisors who help match jobs to jobseekers across Europe.

Ralf Grahn

General sources:

General Report on the Activities of the European Union 2011 (freely downloadable at the EU Bookshop in all the official EU languages)
General Report on the Activities of the European Union - 2012 (free to download at the EU Bookshop in all the official EU languages)

Regeringens skrivelse 2012/13:80 Berättelse om verksamheten i Europeiska unionen under 2012

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