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Maximising the benefits of the single market - 12/06/2012

Workers passing through walls with EU stars © EU

Package of measures would improve consumer access to services in other EU countries, boosting growth and jobs.

The single market is a cornerstone of the EU – serving as an essential stimulus for growth and jobs by helping people, goods, services and capital move freely throughout the European Union.

But its potential has not been fully realised. Some countries have not implemented the rules correctly, or removed enough red tape, for example.

This is true for the services sector, where EU law covers a broad range of activities, including business services, real estate, wholesale and retail distribution, construction and entertainment.

An analysis shows that the EU’s GDP would grow by an additional 2.6% over 10 years if all countries fully applied single market rules for service providers. Red tape would also be reduced by a third, leading to overall savings of around €40bn.

The Commission is proposing a package of measures to achieve these benefits and help consumers access services provided from other EU countries.

It is calling for EU countries to fully apply the rules, especially in key sectors such as business, construction, tourism and retail services. They should also remove discriminatory requirements banned by law.

Such rules include nationality restrictions and obligations for retailers to conduct costly studies proving demand exists for their services. Other barriers include differences across the EU in recognising professional qualifications and diplomas issued by other EU countries.

In parallel, the Commission will step up enforcement against countries that continue to breach the law and will work with governments to open up areas where further economic gains can be achieved.

Other actions include encouraging insurance companies to provide adequate cover for cross-border service providers and further support for consumers who want to buy services in another EU country.

Next steps

The Commission plans to issue an annual report card identifying country-specific actions needed to boost growth in the services market.

The report will become part of the annual ‘European semester’, a six-month process conducted every year during which EU governments consult each other on their budgets and economic policies.

More on the EU’s single market for services

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