The Commission has published its new internal market strategy. The areas that are likely to be of particular interest are those which overlap with the Commission’s Digital Single Market strategy, launched in May 2015.
1. Enabling the development of Europe’s sharing economy
The most eye catching, and potentially controversial, initiative is the promotion of Europe’s online sharing economy, such as Uber or Airbnb. The commission plans to publish guidance early next year on the position and rights of sharing firms under existing EU rules and also a review of national regulation of sharing services. Interestingly, Jyrki Katainen, a commission vice-president, compared the banning of UberPop (a disruptive car sharing service) with attempts by horse riders to ban cars.
2. Preventing discrimination on territorial grounds
Also up for review is the denial of access to cheaper websites, offers and discounts based on territorial restrictions. The commission plans to introduce new rules, and take legal action against Member States, to ensure commercial terms do not discriminate. The importance of this objective is demonstrated by the commission’s crusade against the geo-blocking of access to sport and film content.
3. Consolidating Europe’s intellectual property framework
The commission has ambitious plans to modernise the European intellectual property framework, notably for pharmaceutical and other industries. The plans for next year include a review of the EU intellectual property enforcement framework.
The commission’s other initiatives are:
4. Helping small and medium enterprises and start-ups
In relation to SMEs, the aim is enhanced access to finance and to reform the VAT regime. An in important practical idea is legislation on businesses insolvency, to make sure entrepreneurs have a second chance after being declared bankrupt.
5. Removing barriers for cross border trade in services
The commission is, rightly, concerned that the EU Services Directive has not achieved its intended objectives. It is well known that architects, engineers, and accountants are often prevented from offering services in other Member States. This objective has the potential to be something of a game changer, however it is one European has consistently struggled to implement in the face of resistance from many professional bodies.
6. Addressing restrictions in the retail sector
There are plans to tackle barriers to setting up retail businesses in other Member States, including: size; location; the requirements for local permits; and discriminatory planning rules.
7. Modernising the European Standards System
The adoption of European wide standards will be reviewed to take into account the increased importance of information and communication technology.
8. Achieving transparent and accountable public procurement
Member States will be able to access assistance with the procurement aspects of large infrastructure projects.
9. Promoting a culture of enforcement in the single market
There will be a renewed commitment to ensuring that the principle of mutual recognition is respected, accompanied by more rigorous enforcement action against Member States.
Ambitiously, the commission’s strategy aims to makes significant progress by 2017. However, Europe has attempted to address most of these issues on numerous previous occasions and the degree to which this attempt translates into concrete action will depend on the political will to address powerful vested interests in Member States.