Ever since the first version came into force in 1958, the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union has sought to create a single, integrated internal market. This means a single economic space without internal frontiers, guaranteeing the free movement of people, goods, services and capital. The single market now consists of 28 member states, together comprising roughly 490 million inhabitants. There are some 70 million more inhabitants in the single European market than in the US and Japanese markets combined.
The campaign to create a single market stems from the belief that both the EU as a whole and every individual member state will prosper most if people, goods, capital and investments are allocated to those geographic areas where the economic benefits are the greatest. This means that each country has to specialise, thus giving the maximum boost to trade among the countries of the union. All countries benefit from this arrangement – more so than if each of them was fully self-supporting.
The first step towards achieving this ambition was taken when all import and export duties between the member states were abolished on 31 December 1969. Despite this, many technical barriers have remained in place. Many of these have a similar purpose to – or at least their effect is identical to that of – import and export duties, i.e. preserving the old customs frontiers. Technical barriers tend to mushroom during a recession, as member states seek to protect what they regard as their short-term interests – not only in their dealings with non-EU countries, but also vis-à-vis other member states. Particularly during a recession, these barriers pose a huge risk to the effective operation of the single market and for this reason need to be broken down. The basic principle is that, if a given article has been produced and is sold in a member state in accordance with that state’s laws, there is no reason whatsoever why it should not be traded freely within the entire EU.
People and services
The same applies to people and services. If an EU resident or an EU-based company works or operates (as the case may be) in accordance with the law in one member state, there is no reason why the same person or company should not be able to work or operate elsewhere in the EU.
Every citizen and company needs to be aware not only that member states are obliged to remove technical barriers, but also that they are entitled to bring a claim against a member state if it fails to do so.