Article 26(2) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) succinctly defines the Internal Market as "an area without internal frontiers in which the free movement of goods, persons, services and capital is ensured in accordance with the provisions of the Treaties".
Today, we tend to take for granted that we can transport goods across the internal borders of the EU and that no restrictions apply to travellers or EU citizens taking up residence in another EU Member State, or indeed, (for the most part), in the European Economic Area (EEA), which comprises Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway. It is easy to forget just how long it took us to get to this point. In fact, the work on the implementation of these freedoms started when what was then the European Communities were still in their infancy. The "Completing the Internal Market" White Paper, which was published by the European Commission in 1985, gave fresh impetus to the Single Market and set 31 December 1992 as the deadline for its completion. In the twenty years since, some remarkable progress has been made. The single currency, the euro, is a visible sign to the outside world of how the markets in Europe have been growing together to form a single European internal market.
However, there is nothing static about the internal market, which is affected by political, economic, social, and technological change. It has to adapt to these changes and point a way forwards for the European Union, helping it recover economically. Advancing the completion of the internal market is therefore a permanent task for the European Union.
Single Market Acts I and II
The first Single Market Act was an important milestone on the path to completing the Internal Market. It is entitled and was presented by the European Commission on 13 April 2011. Each of the projects listed in the Single Market Act is key to improving Europe's competitiveness (reform of the Professional Qualifications Directive, modernisation of public procurement law, Unitary Patent Package, ...).
A second Single Market Act setting out additional measures for the further development of the internal market in forward-looking areas was published by the Commission on 3 October 2012. In its written opinion of 2 November 2012, the Federal Government welcomed the presentation of the Second Single Market Act.
Future internal market policy will have to focus particularly on measures that deliver growth and employment. The digital economy is a key sector with much untapped potential for creating additional value added. In principle, Germany also welcomes the proposals for opening up European rail, maritime, and air traffic and for the implementation of the Third Single Energy Market Package. In addition to fostering citizens' mobility, it will also be vital to create a competitive policy environment that is conducive to growth. Small and medium-sized enterprises, in particular, are often prevented from making full and effective use of the opportunities offered by the single market because of red tape. Further action is therefore needed to reduce the overall regulatory burden at European level.
Strengthening the international competitiveness of European companies
A key objective of the internal market has always been to strengthen the global competitiveness of European companies by creating a large domestic market (economies of scale) and a regulatory environment that is conducive to business. For the Federal Government and the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy in particular, this objective is of utmost importance as Europe is striving to revive its internal market.
Establishing a Single Market for Services
Providers of services still face obstacles when it comes to cross-border trade in Europe. This is having a negative impact on growth and stops much-needed jobs from being created. More needs to be done to unleash the enormous potential of the single market in the services sector. The Services Directive, which aims to remove red tape and promote cross-border trade in services, is a key step in this direction. For more detailed information on the Services Directive, see (in German only).
Mutual recognition of the professional qualifications obtained by EU citizens in the Member States is another pivotal factor when it comes to creating a single market for services. on the recognition of professional qualifications sets out rules for recognition and for administrative procedure in the Member States.
As part of the Single Market Act I, the Member States, the European Commission, and the European Parliament have agreed to modernise this directive. The changes will streamline and speed up the recognition procedure. In future, there will be electronic professional cards for certain professions. The updated Professional Qualifications Directive will foster labour mobility within the EU and thus help address the skills gap in Germany.
The European Commission is currently carrying out an evaluation of all regulated professions in the Member States under the European Transparency Initiative. The background to this is that the conditions for the access to different professions differ widely among the Member States. The Commission therefore wants to identify and review existing barriers to entry for regulated professions in order to create more transparency and better opportunities for workers to access the labour market in the EU in the long term.
In this context, regulated professions are those professions to which access is conditional upon the possession of specific qualifications. Professions are regulated particularly in cases where special quality assurance requirements have to be met or where a high level of training is required.
For the purposes of the evaluation, the Commission updates the list of regulated professions in the Member States which is maintained by it. In May 2014, the Commission published a . This interactive map gathers together the most important information on how professions are regulated in the different Member States.
The Member States then examine their own national access rules to ensure that they are non-discriminatory, necessary, and proportionate. Following this examination, the Member States may participate in a mutual evaluation (peer review) and comment on the regulatory regimes in other Member States.
The Ministry for Economic Affairs engages constructively in the European debate on an increased liberalisation of the internal market for services.
Governing the Single Market
Individuals and companies can only make effective use of the opportunities offered by the internal market if every individual internal market directive is fully and correctly implemented by the Member States within the specified deadline. In order to monitor the Member States' performance in this regard, the European Commission publishes the , a tool which keeps track of how European legislation relating to the single market is transposed and applied by the Member States. Various governance tools are used to measure each Member State's performance. The relevant criteria here include the number of internal market directives that the Member State has failed to implement within the deadline and the performance of the country's centre.