Much more than a market !

Ce rapport interroge l’histoire, les tendances et les raisons d’être du marché unique, pour mieux en envisager l’avenir ?

Grain de sel VDB : je ne peux m’empêcher de regarder dans le rétroviseur et évoquer le rapport de Mario Monti le 9 mai 2010 « A NEW STRATEGY FOR THE SINGLE MARKET AT THE SERVICE OF EUROPE’S ECONOMY AND SOCIETY » mais également de faire un pas de côté en prenant en compte, le discours fort bien structuré et très clair de M. Draghi publie dans sa version française par le Grand Continent

The Single Market is a product of an era when both the EU and the world were « smaller », simpler, and less integrated, and many of today’s key players had not yet entered the scene. When Jacques Delors conceived and presented the European Single Market to the world in 1985, the EU was known as the European Communities. The number of Member States was less than half of what it is today. Germany was divided into two, and the Soviet Union still existed. China and India together constituted less than 5% of the global economy, and the acronym BRICS was unheard of. At that time, Europe, on par with the US, was at the centre of the world economy, leading in terms of economic weight and innovation capacity, representing a fertile ground for development and growth.

The Single Market was established to strengthen European integration by eliminating trade barriers, ensuring fair competition, and promoting cooperation and solidarity among Member States. It facilitated the free movement of goods, services, people, and capital through harmonisation and mutual recognition, thereby enhancing competition and fostering innovation. Furthermore, to guarantee that all regions could equally benefit from market opportunities, cohesion funds were introduced. This comprehensive approach has been pivotal in driving economic integration and development across the EU.

Tailored for the world of that time, the Single Market proved from the beginning to be a formidable boost for the European economy, as well as a powerful factor of attractiveness. Today, more than thirty years after its inception, the Single Market continues to be a cornerstone of European integration and values, serving as a powerful catalyst for growth, prosperity and solidarity. However, the international scenario has profoundly changed, highlighting the need to develop a new Single Market.

The Single Market has always been intrinsically linked to the EU’s strategic objectives. Often perceived as a project of a technical nature, on the contrary it is inherently political. Its future is tied to the EU’s strategic objectives and thus to the context in which the EU acts. Therefore, it should never be considered a completed endeavour, but rather an ongoing project. Still, an immediate boost is needed to bring the Single Market at a par with the current context and to prepare it for continuous evolution in line with the dynamics of our time.

It is precisely because of its constantly evolving nature that the Single Market has always been called to adapt to the evolving European and global context. Since the elaboration of the Single European Act, a constant and gradual work of conceptual reflection, involving the elaboration of Reports and Action Plans, was carried on, specifically by the European Commission and its Commissioners. Along these lines, in 2010 the Monti Report provided critical reassessments and set forth recommendations for its reinvigoration. My report is positioned within this continuum, with the objective of conducting a thorough examination of the Single Market’s future following a succession of crises and external challenges that have fundamentally tested its resilience.

The new Single Market for a larger world

Europe has changed fundamentally since the Single Market was launched, to a large extent thanks to its own success. Integration has reached high levels in many, though not all, sectors of the economy and society, and 80% of national legislation results from decisions

adopted in Brussels. However, with 27 Member States the diversity and complexity of the legal system in force in Europe significantly increased, as also the potential benefits from economies of scale. These developments no longer allow us to rely on mere convergence of national legislation and mutual recognition, which have become too slow and complex or just insufficient to benefit from economies of scale.

Several factors call for updating the cardinal points of the Single Market, aligning them with the European Union’s new vision for its role in a world that has grown « larger » and undergone significant structural transformations.

The global demographic and economic landscape has dramatically shifted. Over the past three decades, the EU’s share of the global economy has diminished, with its representation among the world’s largest economies sharply decreasing in favour of rising Asian economies. This trend is partially driven by demographic changes, with the EU facing a shrinking and ageing population. In contrast to the growth observed in other regions, the birth rate within the European Union is alarmingly declining, with 3.8 million babies born in 2022, a decrease from the 4.7 million births recorded in 2008. Furthermore, even without considering Asian economies, the EU Single Market is lagging behind the US market. In 1993, the two economic areas had a comparable size. However, while GDP per capita in the US increased by almost 60% from 1993 to 2022, in Europe the increase was less than 30%.

The rules-based international order faces serious challenges, entering a phase marked by the resurgence of power politics. The European Union has traditionally committed to multilateralism, free trade, and international cooperation, principles that have formed the bedrock of its global governance and economic strategies. These values have steered the EU’s interactions on the international stage, fostering a rule-based order that has been central to its foundational ethos and operational framework. However, wars and trade conflicts are increasingly undermining the principles of a rules-based international system, posing significant threats to the very foundation upon which the EU has constructed its external relations and policies. Vladimir Putin’s war on Ukraine represents a rupture after which nothing can remain the same. The new European posture materialised with the Versailles Declaration of March 2022, later followed by the Granada Declaration of October 2023 and the recently updated European Commission Economic Security Strategy.

The European Union’s success rests upon the pillars of free trade and openness. Compromising these ideals threatens the very foundation upon which the EU is built. Therefore, we must address the complex international framework with the goal of preserving peace and upholding the rule-based international order, while also guaranteeing the Union’s economic security. In this complex endeavour, it is essential to continue investing in the enhancement and promotion of European standards, reinforcing the Single Market’s role as a robust platform that supports innovation, safeguards consumer interests, and promotes sustainable development.

Another crucial dimension to address concerns the perimeter of the Single Market. At the inception three sectors were deliberately kept outside the integration process, considered too strategic for their operation and regulation to extend beyond national borders: finance, electronic communications and energy. The exclusion at the time was motivated by the belief that prioritising domestic control over these areas would better serve strategic interests. However, national markets, initially designed to protect domestic industries, now represent a major brake to growth and innovation in sectors where global competition and strategic considerations call for swiftly moving to a European scale. Even within the original perimeter, the Single Market is in need of an overhaul: particularly, the intra-EU provision of services continues to encounter significant barriers that need to be addressed and removed to unlock the full potential of the Single Market.

For this larger world, we need a strong political commitment to empower a new Single Market.

This new framework must be able to protect the fundamental freedoms, based on a level playing field, while supporting the objective of establishing a dynamic and effective European industrial policy. To achieve these ambitious objectives, we need speed, we need scale, and above all we need sufficient financial resources.

A collective effort for a new Single Market: 400 meetings, 65 European cities

During the journey across Europe that accompanied the elaboration of the Report from September 2023 to April 2024, I visited 65 European cities, and I took part in more than 400 meetings where I had the opportunity to interact, following a method of active listening and open discussion, with thousands of people across the entire continent. The dialogue involved all national governments and the main European institutions, in addition to all political groups within the European Parliament. Similarly, outside the EU, discussions took place with countries that share the Single Market without being EU members and with all candidate countries for accession. Social partners – trade unionsemployers’ organisations – as well as third sector and civil society groups were consulted, often several times, both in Brussels and in various national capitals. Furthermore, there were numerous meetings with citizens and debates held in universities or within think tanks, not only in major European cities but also in inland and rural areas.

This journey has contributed to the development of a dynamic collective reflection on the future of the Single Market. As the author of the Report, I naturally take full responsibility for the analyses and proposals contained within it. However, in order to formulate them, itinerant listening and interaction throughout Europe proved to be crucial.

During this journey, I also experienced firsthand the most glaring paradox of EU infrastructure: the impossibility of travelling by high-speed train between European capitals. In a continent as small and densely populated as ours, which has also embarked on the path of environmental sustainability, it would have been natural to travel by train, the quintessential green mode of transportation. However, this is currently impossible and seems unlikely to change in the near future, as concrete operational plans remain merely theoretical. This is a profound contradiction, emblematic of the problems of the Single Market. Indeed, our continent quickly and effectively developed the high-speed rail system, but except for the Paris-Brussels-Amsterdam axis, it remained within national borders. We have not even managed to connect the three main European capitals of Brussels, Strasbourg, and Luxembourg. Despite high-speed rail transforming the internal economic and social landscapes of many European countries, enhancing mobility and development opportunities, these benefits have not extended across the Single Market. This is due to tax incentives, which are mostly national and disadvantage international operators. The industry is prepared and has launched several successful initiatives, however a European approach to regulation and tax incentives, rather than a national one, is necessary. The coming years must prioritise the planning, funding, and implementation of a major plan to connect the European capitals with high-speed rail. This project must become one of the pillars of the fair, green, and digital transition. It can mobilise energies and resources and, above all, can deliver gradual results benefiting not only future generations but also the current ones.

The inspirations from my journey across Europe have been numerous and motivating. However, among the many topics addressed in European and national debates, one has emerged as predominant everywhere. This is the issue of supporting and financing the goals that all together, we have identified as central for the coming years and which the

EU seems to have now irreversibly embraced. These are bold and positive choices that will accompany European life for at least a decade and will be vital for us and for future European citizens. These choices, while also offering considerable opportunities, will also inevitably come with significant costs.

Firstly, the commitment to a fair green, and digital transition. This choice reflects a long- term commitment to transforming European society and economy in a sustainable and equitable manner. The upcoming legislative term is identified as crucial for ensuring the implementation and success of this comprehensive transition.

Secondly, the decision to pursue enlargement. The focus here lies not merely on the goal itself but on the careful execution of its implementation. Setting a clear direction for the integration of new members into the EU represents one of the main challenges for the next years.

Thirdly, the need to enhance the EU’s security. In the new world disorder, characterised by profound and systemic instability, the future of the EU cannot ignore the need to ensure the security of European citizens. This will imply more demanding positions and decisions in the field of defence.

It now appears certain that these three main strategic directions will guide the EU in the coming years. It is no longer a question of whether Europe will pursue them but how it will do so. This will certainly be a heated debate. I have had a clear perception of this in the many meetings during the journey, where discussions were everywhere constructive but quite lively. Similarly, I also came away with another distinct impression: for European citizens, it is clear that pursuing this path will entail high collective costs. Therefore, as long as there is no clarity and transparency on how those funds will be identified and who will pay for them, the concern among citizens themselves and among the vital forces of our societies will be increasing. In order to avoid political backlash, the issue of financial support and cost allocation for the transition, enlargement, and new security frontiers must find clear, straightforward and transparent answers.

Building the Single Market of the future will be one of the key conditions for meeting these financing needs. My analysis intentionally does not exceed the scope of the mandate received from the EU Council and the Commission – developed under the present Belgian, Spanish, and Hungarian trio Presidency of the Council of the EU – and aims to provide the most concrete and operational contribution possible to the work programmes ofthose institutions and to Mario Draghi’s Report on the future of European competitiveness.

Le rapport complet :




A Savings and Investments Union to unlock the potential of the Single Market
Leveraging the Single Market to enhance green and digital industrial public investments Improving investment: circular economy, public procurement and administrative capacity


An effective Single Market for Electronic Communications Networks and Services
A Single Market to foster efficient Energy-Climate Policies
Promoting peace and enhancing security: towards a Common Market for the defence industry The Single Market and space: fostering integration for strategic autonomy
Leveraging the Single Market to strengthen health resilience
The Single Market as a catalyst for seamless and sustainable transportation in the EU


Freedom to move and freedom to stay
Strengthening the Single Market social dimension
Unleash the potential of European SMEs
Addressing tax fragmentation to empower the Single Market A Single Market for Consumers


Enhancing proposal design in the Single Market
Enhancing rule adoption through informed decision-making Implementing EU rules with effectiveness and efficiency Strengthening Enforcement to uphold market integrity Simplifying regulations for a More dynamic Single Market


A resilient Single Market in the new geopolitical scenario
Trade as a crucial tool to project the Single Market’s influence
The Single Market as a key tool in the enlargement process
The role of the Single Market in enhancing economic cooperation with strategic partners



Much more than a market – Speed, Security, Solidarity

Empowering the Single Market to deliver a sustainable future and prosperity for all EU Citizens

Rapport en francais grâce a Grand Continent