Happy Anniversary, Single Market! EU celebrates digital economy renewed pattern for inclusive growth


Single Market between past achievements and present concerns

From 15 to 20 October, the 27 EU Member States are celebrating the 20th anniversary of the European Single Market [1], which was launched on 1 January 1993 by means of the abolition of the internal border controls, thus allowing since then the free  movement of people, goods, services and capital between EU countries.

Nowadays, the European Single Market can be accessed by over 500 million people across 27 Member States, and represents the largest GDP of any economy in the world, with a trade flow which has increased between Member Countries from €800 billion in 1992 to €2,540 billion in 2010.

In its 20 year history, the Single Market pursued tangible goals consisting in the abolition of barriers and physical customs control, and in the harmonisation of national rules preventing companies trading across borders.

Among the main achievements now celebrated, there are also the figures concerning Internet access, which confirm the EU as the second largest region at global level, behind Asia, by number of Internet users, which are more than 380 million with 73% of all EU households connected to the Internet.

However, as stated by the EU Commissioner for the Internal Market, Mr Barnier, this is not time for complacency: in fact, the unprecedented series of crises hitting the most vulnerable parts of the European population and territories, seems to put at risk the very survival of the Single Market which – on the contrary –  should be regarded as the main asset to help get the EU out of the crisis.

The way forward: digital economy priorities in the «Single Market Act II»

Under this renewed spirit, the EU has recently launched the «Single Market Act II», setting out twelve immediate priorities (Key Actions) which the Commission will focus on to support growth and employment, thus helping the EU economy, as a whole, to recover from the crisis.

According to the «Single Market Act II», digital economy plays a pivotal role in providing inclusive growth without discrimination, allowing for economic and social participation and spurring territorial cohesion. All EU citizens and businesses must therefore have the opportunity to be part of the digital economy. This shall be ensured in particular as far as access to high-speed broadband is concerned, since this is a crucial factor for higher innovation, competitiveness and employment rates.

The Commission is aware that, despite progress made, the EU is still suffering from underinvestment in the deployment of high-speed broadband networks across the Single Market and is far from achieving the European Digital Agenda high-speed Internet targets. In this perspective, the Single Market can help to accelerate progress substantially by addressing a key underlying cause of this investment “latency”, i.e. unnecessarily high civil engineering costs which can make up to 80% of total costs in this field and could be reduced by up to one quarter simply by cross-utility re-use of existing infrastructure.

In order to overcome the envisaged gaps, under the «Single Market Act II» – Key Action No 9, the Commission declares its commitment to:

(i)             propose common rules which would enable operators to exploit fully the cost-reduction potential in employing broadband;

(ii)           make its best efforts towards the swift adoption by the European Parliament and the Council of the Commission proposal for a Connecting Europe Facility, which would help the efficient roll-out of high-speed broadband and digital service infrastructures by using the EU budget efficiently to leverage private investment in a key sector of the economy;

(iii)          put at the centre of the EU political agenda a number of further issues, including the best use of spectrum in the Single Market;

(iv)          pursue a reflection on the need to further adapt the EU telecommunications law and copyright law. The Commission plans to take the latter issue forward, starting with the follow-up to the Green Paper on the online distribution of audiovisual works and the rapid conclusion of the review of the 2001 Copyright Directive.

In this perspective, we believe that the 20th anniversary of the Single Market represents the occasion for the EU to celebrate a renewed pattern for inclusive growth, thus reaffirming in the digital era the integration and social cohesion ideals which were and are still at the centre of the European Union foundation.

[1] The full list of events taking place around the 27 EU Member States is available at the following official link http://www.singlemarket20.eu/single-market-week/national-events.

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