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No 16 (March 99/Mars 99/März 99)
The Action Plan for the Single Market has come to an end. In just 18 months, we have accomplished real progress towards making the Single Market a reality for citizens and business.
One of the main targets was to ensure that Single Market rules are applied in practice. The outcome has been very encouraging. Particular successes include cutting the percentage of Single Market Directives not yet implemented in all Member States (the "fragmentation factor") from 35% in June 1997 to 13.9% by the end of 1998; putting in place structures for problems to be resolved directly between Member States; and accelerating infringement procedures against Member States where Single Market rules are not applied. This progress has been greatly facilitated by the 'peer pressure' introduced by the Single Market Scoreboard, which has proved itself to be an excellent management tool for monitoring the functioning of the Single Market. As a result of its success, the Scoreboard will continue to appear twice per year.
Establishing the Dialogue with Citizens and Business was another landmark - never before have we managed to reach out so effectively to those with a direct stake in the Single Market. There has also been significant progress on filling remaining gaps in the Single Market's legislative framework with the adoption of Directives on avoiding potential barriers to electronic commerce, protecting biotechnology inventions, conditional access services (such as pay-TV) and gas liberalisation.
On the other hand, there are disappointments. There is still a significant backlog of Single Market Directives not yet implemented; a high level of state subsidies which continue to distort the Single Market and no agreement on the European Company Statute.
We must now maintain the momentum and political impetus of the last 18 months. Our main task is to fine-tune and ensure the smooth functioning of the Single Market so as to maximise its contribution to the everyday lives of citizens and business (better job opportunities, wider choice of goods and services, lower prices and easier travel). And the Single Market must contribute to the EU's overall economic well-being in terms of competitiveness and growth while respecting the Union's wider concerns such as environment and consumer protection issues. To do this, the Commission will bring forward its proposals to follow the Action Plan at the Internal Market Council in June.
Future Single Market objectives will in particular target everyday issues for citizens and business: we shall pay particular attention to feedback from the Dialogue with Citizens and Business, to the Scoreboard business survey, and to our market analysis prepared for the EU's Economic Policy Guidelines (see the Special Feature accompanying this issue). As well as further tightening up enforcement of Single Market rules and cutting red tape, these priorities will include specific action to tackle problem areas in the Single Market, such as mutual recognition of national rules.
Other priorities will be to ensure the EU's financial services sector realises its full potential (notably through the Framework for Action - see pages 8-9 of this issue); improving the functioning of public procurement markets (see page 21 for our latest initiative on public/private partnerships); and adapting the Single Market framework to new challenges and opportunities, such as electronic commerce. Initiatives to meet many of these priorities will be non-legislative, as well as legislative, because they can often prove to be more effective.
Finally, a word on Single Market News itself. I should very much welcome a response to our request for readers to complete the questionnaire accompanying this issue (see centre pages). This will help us to take into account your interests and preferences to improve the magazine.