Thursday

23rd Mar 2017

EU citizens no longer see benefits of internal market, Barnier says

The EU needs to revert to the principles of a social market economy as its citizens no longer feel served by the single market, EU internal market commissioner Michel Barnier has said.

Speaking to a group of journalists on Monday (20 September), the centre-right French politician pleaded for finding "the means for reconciliation between citizens and the European economic project. And to re-find the initial objective [of the European Community] which was very much a social market economy."

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

  • Barnier: 'The financial crisis is like the environmental crisis, people have very short memories' (Photo: European Parliament)

He indicated citizens no longer realise that the internal market, long considered among the EU's most cherished achievements, "improves their lives."

The current economic climate with member states on the defensive amid rising unemployment and citizen unrest has made his job more difficult. The internal market remains vulnerable to the "increase in populistic and nationalistic tendencies," he said.

The commissioner has two major initiatives in the pipeline to safeguard the "heart of the European project" – the relaunch of the Single Market next month, a major undertaking containing between 30 and 40 new proposals, as well as a proposal on making sanctions for market abuse "heavier."

A former foreign and farm minister, Mr Barnier is also being closely watched for how he deals with regulating financial services where the current laissez-faire culture is seen as having led to the global economic crisis.

Having secured on Wednesday (22 September) what critics say is too weak an agreement on financial oversight in order to prevent such a crisis happening again, the commissioner has a raft of other proposals in the offing including on regulating short selling; improving transparency in the derivatives market; strengthening sanctions for violations of financial services laws and forcing banks to put aside more capital reserves.

He remains attached to the idea of a European ratings agency - ratings agencies analyse the risks facing companies and bonds issuers and were blamed for failing to anticipate the financial crisis - and says that the idea of the tax on financial transactions is one of the major questions ahead of him and his colleagues.

Financial services, argues the commissioner, must be put back at the "service of the real economy."

The drive to regulate risks being undermined not only by national capitals, particularly London, home to the EU's most important financial centre, but also a creeping complacency about the crisis being over.

"The financial crisis is like the environmental crisis, people have very short memories. It is our responsibility as politicians to remind people and to fully learn the lessons of the crisis and not let people forget those lessons," the commissioner said.

"This includes banks who - though I stress not all of them - say to us that now it is 'business as usual'."

With the European Commission having come under fire in the past from both the European Parliament and some member states for reacting too slowly to the economic crisis, Mr Barnier says he believes the executive is now "doing what is expected of [it]."

"I believe very strongly in the commission's sole right to propose legislation [and] that we must use it in a proactive way and not in a defensive way. And that it is something I try to do in my own area."

Comparing his current mandate to his time as regional commissioner in 1999-2004, Mr Barnier noted that one of the biggest differences is the increase in the number of member states, from 15 to 27, and the greater powers and "diversity" of the European Parliament. This makes getting agreement on issues a much more time-consuming affair, he said.

Eurozone chief in 'drinks and women' row

[Updated] The Netherlands' Jeroen Dijsselbloem faces calls for resignation after saying that crisis-hit countries in southern Europe spent "money on drinks and women" before being helped by others.

Greek bailout talks to 'intensify'

Greece and its creditors will meet in Brussels later this week to unblock negotiations needed for a new tranche of financial aid, amid concerns over the country's economic situation.

Varoufakis back in push for ECB transparency

The former Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis and German left-wing MEP Fabio De Masi want to know whether the European Central Bank overstepped its powers when putting capital controls on Greek banks in 2015.

MEPs demand stronger rules against tax evasion

MEPs in the civil liberties and economic committees voted in favour of toughening up EU wide rules on tax evasion, as they gear up for institutional talks in March on the EU's anti-money laundering directive.

Stolen Russian billions ended up in EU states

Illicit money flowing out of Russia ended up in almost every single EU state, an investigation has found, posing questions on the integrity of Europe’s banking systems.

News in Brief

  1. Russia invites EU diplomats to occupied Crimea
  2. UK parliament in lockdown after reported attack
  3. Brussels attacks remembered with minute of silence and noise
  4. Magnitsky's lawyer injured near Moscow
  5. Trump to travel to Brussels on 25 May for Nato summit
  6. Polish defence minister accuses Tusk of treason
  7. Fillon slips in polls as new allegations emerge
  8. Brexit summit for EU-27 will be on 29 April

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Gaming & Betting AssociationAudiovisual Media Services Directive to Exclude Minors from Gambling Advertisements
  2. ILGA-EuropeTime for a Reality Check on International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination
  3. UNICEFHuman Cost to Refugee and Migrant Children Mounts Up One Year After EU-Turkey Deal
  4. Malta EU 2017Council Adopts New Rules to Improve Safety of Medical Devices
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Energy Research: How to Reach 100 Percent Renewable Energy
  6. Party of European SocialistsWe Must Renew Europe for All Europeans
  7. MEP Tomáš ZdechovskýThe European Commission Has Failed in Its Fight Against Food Waste
  8. ILGA-EuropeEP Recognises Discrimination Faced by Trans & Intersex People
  9. Nordic Council of Ministers25 Nordic Bioeconomy Cases for Sustainable Change
  10. Malta EU 2017Consumer Protection Laws to Be Strengthened by EU-Wide Cooperation
  11. European Free AllianceSupporting Artur Mas: Democracy and Freedom Cannot Be Convicted
  12. UNICEFSyria Conflict 6 Years On: Children's Suffering at Its Worst

Latest News

  1. EU declaration to voice unity in troubled times
  2. Terror attack shuts down UK parliament
  3. Catalonia and Scotland at core of Europe's geopolitical conundrum
  4. La présidentielle française sous cyber-alerte maximale
  5. EU doing well in global energy ranking
  6. Child migrants endure 'abysmal conditions'
  7. French socialist woos Europe with new vision
  8. EU to Macedonia: 'Stop playing with fire'