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No 9 (October 97/Octobre 97/Oktober 97)
On 1 October we passed the first deadline for Member States to take a number of measures under the Action Plan for the Single Market which was endorsed by the Amsterdam European Council on 16-17 June. I am pleased that all Member States but one have notified details of their calendar for implementing outstanding Single Market Directives.
Member States now need to mobilise all the necessary resources and political authority to ensure that the relevant legislative proposals are indeed prepared, put forward and adopted in accordance with the timetables. For a Member State to enjoy access to the markets of other Member States that are diligently implementing Single Market rules while itself failing to meet implementation deadlines would be unacceptable. I should emphasise that the introduction of these timetables will not, of course, delay Commission infringement proceedings against any Member State failing to honour a transposition deadline set in a Directive.
Member States were also due by 1 October to notify easily identifiable contact points in their administrations to which citizens and business can turn when they encounter a problem exercising their rights within the Single Market. Only two countries have failed to do so (three in the case of contact points for citizens).
It is essential for the credibility of the Single Market that this system of pragmatic cooperation is now made to function in a fully effective manner. It will ensure that problems that arise can be solved quickly, as close to their source as possible. It is in the mutual interest of all Member States to help one another and their businesses and citizens. This help can be given by means of simple day-to-day contact between enforcement officials in different Member States.
Problems don't necessarily have to end up on the table of the Commission or as a judgement of the Court of Justice. They can usually (and best) be resolved pragmatically at a lower level if there is a willingness between colleagues to pick up the telephone or send off a fax or e-mail. This will require all levels of national administration to be involved and may require a change of outlook in some quarters. That said, the Commission's infringement proceedings are likely to continue to play a crucial role in resolving more difficult and persistent problems.
So far, so good. However, the Member States' record on notifying details of their structures and procedures for enforcing Single Market rules is not so promising - only 7 out of 15 so far. And there is still a long way to go to put in place all the Action Plan measures. If we fail to make sure that these measures become reality, there is a real risk that citizens and business lose faith in the Single Market and we will miss our opportunity to make sure that the European Union is on track to secure optimum job creation, growth and international competitiveness by the time the single currency is launched in 1999.
I would also like to mention the Commission's latest initiative on preparing the ten associated Central and Eastern Europe Countries (CEECs) for the Single Market. Commissioner Monti recently outlined to Ministers from the ten CEECs our plans for drawing up a practical `road map' for each individual CEEC setting priorities and indicative timetables for implementing the Single Market framework (see Special Feature in this issue of SMN). These `road maps', to be updated on a regular basis, will be tailor-made to the needs of each country and so take account of progress made so far, vulnerabilities of particular sectors and problem areas. I am pleased to report that this approach has received a warm welcome from the CEEC Ministers.