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The European single market

The European single market

The single market refers to the EU as one territory without any internal borders or other regulatory obstacles to the free movement of goods and services. A functioning single market stimulates competition and trade, improves efficiency, raises quality, and helps cut prices. The European single market is one of the EU’s greatest achievements. It has fuelled economic growth and made the everyday life of European businesses and consumers easier.

Coronavirus response in relation to flow of protective equipment on the internal market

In response to the limited availability of protective equipment across Europe, some EU countries have adopted national measures which affect the intra-EU export of medical and protective products. The Commission is urgently addressing these export bans and restrictions as well as other measures that endanger the free movement of vital medical equipment. We clarified the principles for export restrictions in our 'coordinated economic response to the COVID-19 outbreak'. 

• Communication, 'Coordinated economic response to the COVID-19 outbreak' (PDF)

We have issued guidance on border management for EU countries to protect health and keep goods and essential services available. The guidance recalls some relevant legal provisions and states common objectives to support EU countries in their efforts. We want to protect citizens' health, ensure the correct treatment of people who have to travel, and also secure the availability of essential goods and services. 

Guidelines for border management measures to protect health and ensure the availability of goods and essential services (PDF)

The Commission has also taken steps to protect the availability of personal protective equipment by requiring that their export outside of the EU is subject to an export authorisation by EU countries. We approved guidance on how to implement these measures on 19 March. The guidance addresses practical issues for exporters and EU country authorities, provides additional clarity on products covered, and outlines the assessment process for export authorisation applications.

• Guidance relating to making the exportation of certain products subject to the production of an export authorisation and annexes (PDFs)

Through the Single Market Enforcement Task Force (SMET), the European Commission is working with EU countries to ensure the free flow of goods such as face masks, medial supplies and food in the EU. The first meeting of the task force focused on relieving intra-EU export restrictions of vital supplies, border controls, and the need to produce more essential equipment.

Single Market Enforcement Action Plan (PDF)

The single market strategy

The single market strategy is the European Commission’s plan to unlock the full potential of the single market. The single market is at the heart of the European project, but its benefits do not always materialise because single market rules are not known or implemented, or they are undermined by other barriers. So the Commission has decided to give the single market a boost by improving mobility for service providers, ensuring that innovative business models can flourish, making it easier for retailers to do business across borders, and enhancing access to goods and services throughout the EU.

The strategy to boost the single market

Single digital gateway

The single digital gateway will facilitate online access to the information, administrative procedures and assistance services that citizens and businesses need to get active in another EU country. As of 2020, citizens and companies moving across EU borders will easily be able to find out what rules and assistance services apply in their new residency. By 2023 at the latest, they will be able to perform a number of procedures in all EU member states without any physical paperwork, like registering a car or claiming pension benefits.

Single market for goods

The EU Single Market accounts for 450 million consumers and 22.5 million small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). The Commission’s main goal is to ensure the free movement of goods within the market, and to set high safety standards for consumers and the protection of the environment. Learn more about conformity assessment, market surveillance, legal metrology, the 'new approach' legislation, harmonised and non-harmonised sectors, and the international dimension in the single market for goods section.

Single market for services

Services are crucial to the Single Market. They account for around 70% of all economic activity in the EU and a similar proportion of its employment. EU companies have the freedom to establish themselves in other EU countries and the freedom to provide services in countries other than the one in which they are established. Learn more about the Services Directive, the free movement of professionals, retail, business and construction services, and service standards in the Single Market for services section.

Standardisation

Standards are voluntary technical specifications that apply to various products, materials, services and processes. They can help reduce costs, improve safety, enhance competition and facilitate the acceptance of innovations. Learn about the Joint Initiative on Standardisation, standardisation policy, harmonised standards, service standards, the notification system, standardisation requests and key guidance in the standardisation section.

Barriers to trade

The Commission works to remove or reduce barriers to intra-EU trade and prevent the creation of new ones so enterprises can trade freely in the EU and beyond. It applies Treaty rules prohibiting quantitative restrictions on imports and exports (Articles 34 to 36 TFEU ) and manages the notification procedures on technical regulations (2015/1535) and technical barriers to trade.

CE marking

The Commission introduced the CE mark to indicate that a product meets high safety, health and environmental protection requirements and can be sold throughout the European Economic Area. See the guides for manufacturers, and importers and distributors, and read about CE marking in your country in the CE marking section.

Public procurement

Public procurement is the acquisition of goods and services by public authorities such as national, regional, or municipal governments. The EU works to ensure that public procurement is fair, competitive and conducive to the Single Market. Learn more about EU rules for contracting authorities and other aspects in the public procurement section.

Governance and monitoring of the single market

The Commission monitors the application of EU law and can launch infringement proceedings against EU countries that do not comply. It monitors the functioning of the single market, producing evaluations and key economic reports. The Single Market Forum gathers stakeholders to examine the state of the single market and contributes to policy evaluation. The forum monitors the implementation of the single market act.