May 24, 2024

European Union Seeks to Remove Market Obstacles

BRUSSELS — Seeking to spur growth in the single market introduced nearly two decades ago, the European Commission on Wednesday proposed a dozen measures to dismantle barriers still obstructing the free flow of people, goods and services in the European Union.

In announcing the proposals, all of which need approval from national governments, José Manuel Barroso, the commission president, called on countries to reject the lure of economic nationalism and help open up their markets.

“The single market is not just another policy area,” Mr. Barroso said. “It is what makes Europe real for citizens and businesses.”

The proposals include plans to allow professional qualifications in one country to be recognized in another, as well as efforts to encourage consumers to shop online from Web sites in other European countries.

The list of proposed measures was a vivid reminder of the problems of doing business across borders in the 27-nation European Union, which has almost 500 million consumers.

Mr. Barroso acknowledged that several of the ideas proposed had been “around for quite some time,” but had yet to be acted upon.

That underlines the likely political difficulties in winning agreement from national governments on the proposals, which also include coordinating corporate tax rules, standardizing public procurement procedures and establishing a unitary patent across the European Union.

Mr. Barroso acknowledged that “times of economic crisis provide sometimes a strong temptation to roll back the single market. And we have seen that coming from some member states recently.”

“In these times, many like to question competition rules, exploit the missing links and seek refuge in economic nationalism,” Mr. Barroso said. “That is exactly the wrong approach.”

Europe’s single market was put in place on Jan. 1, 1993. The proposals announced Wednesday would require new legislation or revision of old laws, and the goal is to complete them by Jan. 1, 2013.

“We don’t want the anniversary to be a moment of nostalgia,” said Michel Barnier, the European commissioner for the internal market. “We want to be dynamic and proactive.”

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