06 Oct 2023
Europe, Evaluation, External Publications, Trade, economic integration and globalization

European Single Market: The Unfinished Business

EconPol Forum 5/2023 September Volume 24: The Unfinished Business of the Single European Market

The Single European Market (SEM), a pivotal economic integration mechanism, has faced challenges since its inception in the 1980s. Despite almost four decades of implementation, SEM's architecture remains incomplete. While progress has been made in goods and capital movement, services and people's mobility within the EU still face hurdles.

This article explores the SEM's complexities, emphasizing the need to view it holistically. The EU's integration architecture, including customs unions, common currency, and common policies, significantly impacts SEM's effectiveness. The SEM's incompleteness is exacerbated by divergent national regulations, hindering seamless cross-border trade.

Recent crises, including the Covid-19 pandemic and geopolitical events, have tested the SEM. Internal border closures and varied national responses have underscored the importance of open borders for economic stability. Additionally, external pressures, such as the Russian aggression against Ukraine, have led to fragmented responses, challenging the SEM's unity.

To strengthen SEM, policymakers must focus on removing cross-border barriers, updating regulations, and enhancing enforcement mechanisms. Strengthening the EU's competencies in social and economic policies, maintaining open external trade policies, and addressing national protectionist tendencies are imperative. Completing SEM and safeguarding its integrity demand a comprehensive, collaborative effort.