Twelve steps to success?
The Single Market Act is a misnomer. It is not an act – in the sense of agreed legislation – but a wish-list of things that the European Commission would like to see happen in order to re-energise the single market. The labelling is a none-too-subtle attempt to re-awaken the spirit of the Single European Act of 1986, which laid the foundation of the single market.
Michel Barnier, the European commissioner for the internal market, drew on two reports when coming up with proposals on the future of the single market. One was prepared by Mario Monti, a former European commissioner for the single market and then for competition. Now Italy’s prime minister, he was commissioned by José Manuel Barroso, the president of the Commission, in November 2009 to prepare a report, which he presented in May 2010, entitled a “New strategy for the single market”.
Barnier also drew on a report from May 2010 by Louis Grech, a Maltese centre-left MEP who is a vice-chairman of the European Parliament’s internal market and consumer protection committee, called “Delivering a single market to consumers and citizens”.
Barnier made 50 proposals in October last year for tackling the gaps in the single market. Following an extensive consultation process, Barnier selected 12 priority areas – or ‘levers’ – for inclusion in the Act, which he published in April.
The Commission will make proposals in most of the 12 areas by the end of this year. A proposal one-authentication will be published by the middle of next year. The Commission has asked national governments and MEPs to agree on steps to take in each of the 12 areas by the end of next year.
1 Access to finance for small and medium-sized businesses
The Commission will propose legislation to make it easier for venture-capital funds to invest in another member state.
Date due: 30 November
2 Mobility for citizens
The Commission will make proposals to simplify the system for professional qualifications, and is considering creating a European professional card to increase national authorities’ trust in other countries qualifications systems.
Date due: 13 December
3 Intellectual property rights
The EU should complete work on setting up a common patent-protection system and a common patent litigation system for 25 member states, with the aim of issuing the first EU patents in 2013. The system of granting copyright licences should also be simplified.
4 Consumer empowerment
The Commission will present proposals on alternative dispute settlement and online dispute settlement to avoid expensive court procedures.
Date due: 23 November
The Commission is planning legislation to streamline the European standardisation system and extend it to the services sector. National governments and the Commission will work to ensure the full implementation of the services directive.
The EU should identify and complete strategic projects to complete energy, transport and data networks across Europe.
7 The digital single market
The Commission will propose legislation for the mutual recognition of electronic identification and authentification, and review the directive on electronic signatures.
Date due: First half 2012.
It will also present an action plan for the development of electronic commerce and propose changes to legislation on the use of data produced by public authorities.
Date due: 7 December (e-commerce), 23 November (public data)
8 Social entrepreneurship
The Commission will propose legislation for a European framework for social investment funds, including European foundations.
Date due: 12 December
National governments should make progress on a review of the energy tax directive and a common consolidated corporate-tax base. The Commission will make proposals for a revision of the value-added tax system. Date due: 7 December
10 Social cohesion
The Commission will make proposals on improving the implementation of the posting of workers directive, and clarifying the right to freedom of establishment and the freedom to provide services.
Date due: 20 December
11 The business environment
The Commission wants to simplify accounting rules and reduce administrative burdens, especially for small and medium-sized businesses. Work should be completed on an optional EU contract law system and on cross-border debt recovery.
12 Public procurement
The Commission will make proposals to modernise and streamline public procurement rules and clarify rules on public service concessions.
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Date due: 13 December