Sunday

11th Apr 2021

Internal market to be the EU's new integration project

  • A digital union, energy union and capital markets union are all in the offing - plus stronger implementation rules (Photo: Tambako the Jaguar)

The European Commission is planning much stronger emphasis on integrating the EU's internal market in a bid to get member states focussing on practical issues after years of squabbling over how to address the economic crisis.

“We need something which is common for everybody after being in crisis management mode for seven to eight years now. I feel very strongly that this could be very good for the European project,” said Jyrki Katainen, vice-president of the European Commission.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

  • Jyrki Katainen hopes that a pragmatic focus on internal market integration will heal the political wounds of the economic crisis (Photo: European Parliament)

In the coming months plans for an energy union, a capital markets union and a digital union will be unveiled. There will also be a single market strategy focusing on how member states are implementing laws.

"I do hope that this commission will be remember for internal market development. There is a economic need but also a political need," he said.

Speaking to a group of journalists, the Finnish commissioner, in charge of growth and jobs, indicated this could heal the divisions that have arisen over the eurozone crisis, noting there is “no border line between south and north when it comes to internal market-related issues”.

Katainen was at the forefront of this division in his past job as Finnish prime minister. His goverment took a hard line in its approach to Greece's second bailout, something which eventually resulted in Helsinki demanding collateral for its loans.

More generally, the EU has seen northern countries such as Germany and the Netherlands push for deep spending cuts in bailout countries such as Greece, Portugal and Cyprus. The ideological split has been mirrored by deep differences in unemployment and poverty rates, which are generally much higher in southern member states.

Katainen points to the political element of harmonising rules and standards across a series of sectors to make it easier for people and firms to more freely consume or do business.

"This internal market exercise is extremely important because it will be the first time in many years where we all concentrate on deepening European integration."

However, it is being touted as more than integration for integration’s sake.

The Finnish commissioner is in charge of 'selling' his institution's flagship €315 billion growth plan to investors around the EU, but he notes that over the long term "the biggest impact on growth will come from the internal market side".

This focus will not only be about new proposals to break down barriers to the EU’s single market, but also clamping down on member states who don’t implement already-agreed rules.

"We are planning to get some stronger tools to monitor and to push member states to implement all internal market legislation," said Katainen.

"We should be as tough with implementation of internal market rules as we have been with fiscal policy rules," he added.

At the moment, the European Commission regularly publishes a list of member states which have failed to transpose EU laws, but the monthly exercise has little effect.

EU fiscal rules, tightened since the economic crisis, consist of a comprehensive monitoring and continuous assessment of governments attempts to stick to the deficit and debt rules underpinning the euro.

UK debate

Meanwhile, deepening the internal market could have other practical spin-offs, for instance, in relation to the UK’s domestic debate on the EU.

The country is due to have a membership referendum in 2017 if the Conservatives get back into power after the May election.

And London, traditionally one of the better pupils when it comes to putting in place EU laws, tends to frame its relation to the EU in terms of what the single market can bring the country.

Some voices in the commission believe that showing results in internal market integration might take some of the heat out of the UK’s domestic EU debate - largely focussed on immigration - and give politicians something concrete on which to centre discussion.

Ministers clash over Juncker fund

Germany’s finance minister warned that his government would not make extra contributions to the EU’s planned €300 billion investment vehicle, as ministers clashed on how the programme should be set up.

EU endorses controversial finance tool

Commissioner Hill has announced he wants to revive the securitisation market, saying the practice has been "stigmatised" because of the 2008 US sub-prime crisis.

Magazine

The challenge of artificial intelligence

The fast-growing impact of artificial intelligence will be the biggest challenge for business and consumers in Europe's single market of tomorrow.

News in Brief

  1. Turkey blames EU for sexist protocol fiasco
  2. France to close elite civil-service academy
  3. Covid-19 cases in UK drop 60%, study finds
  4. White House urges 'calm' after Northern Ireland riots
  5. Italy's Draghi calls Turkey's Erdoğan a 'dictator'
  6. Slovakia told to return Sputnik V amid quality row
  7. EU risks €87bn in stranded fossil fuel assets
  8. Obligatory vaccination not against human rights, European court says

Vietnam jails journalist critical of EU trade deal

A journalist who had demanded the EU postpone its trade deal with Vietnam until human rights improved has been sentenced to 15 years in jail. The EU Commission says it first needs to conduct a detailed analysis before responding.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersDigitalisation can help us pick up the green pace
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersCOVID19 is a wake-up call in the fight against antibiotic resistance
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region can and should play a leading role in Europe’s digital development
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council to host EU webinars on energy, digitalisation and antibiotic resistance
  5. UNESDAEU Code of Conduct can showcase PPPs delivering healthier more sustainable society
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersWomen benefit in the digitalised labour market

Latest News

  1. The Covid bell tolls for eastern Europe's populists
  2. Four deaths after taking Russian Sputnik V vaccine
  3. Post-Brexit riots flare up in Northern Ireland
  4. Advice on AstraZeneca varies across EU, amid blood clot fears
  5. Greenland election could see halt to rare-earth mining
  6. After 50 years, where do Roma rights stand now?
  7. Why Iran desperately wants a new nuclear deal
  8. Does new EU-ACP deal really 'decolonise' aid?

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us