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Historical overview

1951: France, Germany, Belgium, Italy, Luxembourg and the Netherlands sign a treaty to tie their coal and steel industries so closely together that they could never again go to war against each other.

1957: these six countries sign the Treaty of Rome, creating the European Economic Community (EEC, later the European Union) with its “common market”.

1968: the EEC eliminates all quotas and “tariffs” – duties on imported goods – from trade in goods within it. However, there remain “non-tariff barriers” – such as differences between the Member States’ safety and packaging requirements or between national administrative procedures. These differences in practice prevent manufacturers from marketing the same goods all over Europe.

Early 1980’s: progress towards a single market is virtually halted, the main reason being simply that Europe’s increasingly uncompetitive national economies are too rigid and fragmented, and the European countries cannot reach the unanimous agreements necessary to change the situation.

1985: European Commission publishes a comprehensive blueprint for welding together the fragmented national markets to create a genuinely frontier-free single market by the end of 1992.

1986: EU adopts the Single European Act. This makes it possible for certain necessary decisions to be taken by a majority vote in the Council of Ministers. This is vital for the meeting the 1992 deadline.

1986 – 1992: EU adopts nearly 280 separate items of legislation prising open hitherto-closed national markets to complete the single market. In many areas, 12 sets of national regulations (there were only 12 members then) are replaced by one common European rule, which vastly reduces the complications and costs for any business trying to market a product throughout the Union. In other areas, to avoid having to adopt new legislation, the Member States simply agree to give each others’ laws and technical standards the same validity as their own (the “mutual recognition” principle).

1993: the single market becomes a reality.

1993 – present: the single market helps to bring down barriers, create more jobs and increase overall prosperity in the EU. The Commission presents and regularly updates the Internal Market strategy, which sets out a long-term strategic vision and framework for improving the functioning of the Single Market.