20 years of the Single Market

The idea behind the Single Market is simplicity itself: treat the EU as one territory where people, money, goods and services interact freely to stimulate competition and trade, and improved efficiency. The increased choice of goods and services will raise quality and cut prices. It is the basic recipe for prosperity.

The Single Market is one of the European Union’s greatest achievements. This year, we celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Single Market, which has not only fuelled economic growth but has also become a part of the everyday life of Europeans.

Early days of the Single Market
In 1986 the European Union adopted the Single European Act, this allowed for over 280 pieces of legislation to be passed to pave the way for one common law for the EU based on the principle of mutual recognition for laws and regulations of member states.

On 1 January 1993 internal border controls between EU countries were abolished and the European Single Market – based on the free movement of people, goods, services and capital- was launched. The 12 original Member States were Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain and the United Kingdom.

Expansion of the Single Market
Initially open to 345 million people and 12 Member States, the Single Market can now be accessed by over 500 million people across 27 Member States. Restrictions between Member States on trade and free competition have gradually been eliminated, with the result that standards of living have increased. While individual Member States are still responsible for taxation and social welfare, the European Single Market is supported by a large number of related pieces of legislation put in place by the EU over the years.

The European Economic Area (EEA) was established on 1 January 1994, allowing Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway to participate in the EU’s Single Market without a conventional membership. In exchange, the three countries must adopt all EU legislation related to the Single Market, except laws that pertain to agriculture and fisheries.

Effects of the Single Market
The Single Market has been responsible for a number of achievements in its 20 year history including

  • Abolishing trade barriers and physical customs controls
  • Harmonising national rules preventing companies trading across borders
  • Changing public procurement rules for the EU
  • Modifying legislation to allow Europeans to move to and work in other Member States
  • Removing barriers to the services sector and allowing companies to provide cross-border services

These help to ensure that market liberalisation benefits as many businesses and consumers as possible.

What's next for the Single Market?
Today, the Single Market allows people and businesses to move and trade freely across borders within the EU. The Single Market has transformed the way Europeans live, work, travel and do business and study. But it doesn’t stop there.

This anniversary provides us with an opportunity to look ahead, and reflect on what could be the future achievements of our Single Market.

Interesting Facts

  • The Single European Act (SEA), signed in 1986, set a deadline of 1992 for the Single Market to be up and running.
  • On 1st of January 1993 internal border controls between EU countries were abolished and the European Single Market - based on the free movement of people, goods, services and capital - became a reality.
  • The original 12 Member States of the European Single Market were: Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain and the United Kingdom
  • There are currently 27 Member States in the Single Market.
  • In 2013, Croatia will join the Single Market and become the 28th Member State of the European Single Market.
  • The Single Market was initially open to 345 million people in 1992. It can now be accessed by over 500 million people.
  • The EU covers over 4 million km² and has 495 million inhabitants — the world’s third largest population after China and India. By surface area, France is the biggest EU country and Malta the smallest.
  • By the end of 2010, around 13 million EU citizens (close to 3% of total EU population) were living in an EU country other than their own for one year or more.
  • The European Single Market has the largest GDP of any economy in the world.
  • Trade between EU countries has increased from €800 billion in 1992 to €2,540 billion in 2010.
  • The European Single Market is the biggest global exporter and importer of food and feed, with exports of food and beverage products amounting to €65.3 billion and imports to €55.5 billion in 2010.
  • At a global level the EU is the second largest region, behind Asia, by number of Internet users, with more than 380 million users – 73% of all EU households are connected to the internet.
  • The Single Market is one of the most wide-ranging and significant symbols of European integration, encompassing many of the policy areas where the EU is most influential. These include the European Customs Union, the single currency, the Schengen Convention and many other policies and laws designed to unite the diverse national economies of Europe into a single unit.
  • There are more than 20 million SMEs currently operating within the Single Market.
  • On the 13th April 2011, the European Commission adopted the Single Market Act announcing twelve key actions to boost growth, jobs and confidence in the European Single Market.
  • With Just 7% of the world’s population, the European Single Market’s trade with the rest of the world accounts for around 20% of global exports and imports.
  • Since the establishment of the European Single Market, prices for a variety of goods and services have been reduced. For example, mobile phone costs have been reduced by 70% and the cost of airline tickets has dropped by 40%.
  • The European Single Market gives Europeans the right to live in any EU Member State.
  • 74% of EU citizens think the Single Market gives consumers a wider choice of goods.

Find out more on the Single Market's anniversary website (http://www.singlemarket20.eu/) and on www.generation1992.eu.

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