30 years of the EU internal market: unique in the world

Status: 01/01/2023 09:06 a.m

The European single market has existed since 1993, a powerful economic bloc with almost 500 million people and a GDP of 15 trillion euros. But whether it’s the Corona crisis or the energy crisis – weaknesses keep showing up.

By Holger Beckmann, ARD Studio Brussels

Almost 500 million people, 24 official languages; the 27 EU member states plus Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Switzerland; a joint gross domestic product of more than 15 trillion euros – in short, a common and uniform economic area, which is the third largest on this globe after the USA and China: That is the European single market.

It’s an economic bloc with significant clout without being a state in its own right – something unlike anywhere else in the world. The idea for this can already be found in the Treaty of Rome, with which Germany, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg and Italy laid the foundation for the European Union in 1957.

The course was set in 1987

With the Single European Act, which was signed 30 years later in Luxembourg, the decisive step towards the actual internal market was taken. Because with it the creation of the European internal market by the end of 1992 was decided. Dutch Foreign Minister van den Broek said at the time:

For the first time, a common act regulates the development of our community and its common policies at once. This allows us to further develop our economy and our politics together – and in this way reduces the risk of our common institutions breaking up.

Permanently connecting

The confederation of states of the European Union should thus get something that will hold it together in the long term and in a binding manner. The common market, which has existed since January 1, 1993, has been a key to this ever since.

Since then, all member states and their populations have benefited from the open borders and the so-called four basic freedoms: It is the free movement of people without border controls, the free movement of goods and the free exchange of money and capital as well as that for services.

“Mother of Integration”

The EU internal market is the mother of European integration and makes it possible for companies to sell their products across Europe, for us as citizens to work anywhere, but also for us as consumers to enjoy the highest standards and the highest protection everywhere have the world

says the Green MEP Anna Cavazzini.

She chairs the Internal Market Committee in the EU Parliament and is convinced that this market actually offers tangible benefits to everyone in Europe. High consumer protection regulations, such as food or drug safety, are one thing, an improved range of products is another. The open borders are also important for the attitude towards life.

Not always smoothly

A study by the Bertelsmann Foundation has calculated that the single market brings every citizen in Germany an annual income advantage of around 1000 euros. This can hardly be checked, but many in the EU Parliament say: Anyone who wants to see whether it would be better without the internal market can simply look at the example of Great Britain and Brexit.

It is correct that the internal market does not always function smoothly and not everywhere. This is currently evident, for example, from the energy crisis: there is no common European electricity or gas market, and securing the supply in all member states is a massive feat.

And in the Corona crisis, many countries closed their borders. It would not have taken much for Europe’s most important foundation to collapse. That is past.

EU Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton sees the US as a threat to the common market. Europe must find an answer to this as quickly as possible in order not to fall by the wayside in international competition.

Image: picture alliance / AA

Search for answer to American threat

Today, EU Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton sees the single market as being threatened primarily by the USA, because the government under Joe Biden in Washington wants to subsidize US companies with 400 billion dollars. Europe must find an answer to this as quickly as possible, Breton demands, in order not to fall by the wayside in international competition.

In Brussels it is said that the Commission is pushing for a new European and debt-financed investment program in response to the “Anti-Inflation Act called law of the USA. In southern Europe, people find this idea highly attractive, while in northern Europe people are more reluctant to look at it.

And last but not least, Germany has so far expressly spoken out against further joint European debt. Ultimately, however, nobody in the EU will want to jeopardize the stability of the internal market. Even if the price for it may seem very high.

Europe’s foundation: 30 years of the EU internal market

Holger Beckmann, WDR Brussels, December 30, 2022 2:18 p.m

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