EU Single Market Act II aims to boost competition

EU flag The European Commission is planning to make it easier to work across the whole single market area

The European Commission has put forward new proposals to make it easier for people and businesses to move and do business within the European Union.

The commission's Single Market Act II has four key aims.

They include fostering mobility of citizens and businesses across borders and making it easier to gain access to finance across the 27 nation EU area.

The act also hopes to strengthen social entrepreneurship and boost consumer confidence.

The commission says the new act should raise employment across the crisis-hit region, particularly for young people.

The crisis in the eurozone is serving as a trigger for a renewed push on deregulation because the need for measures to try to boost jobs and promote growth is more urgent than ever, says BBC Europe correspondent Chris Morris.

The new Single Market Act follows close after the first Single Market Act, which was adopted in April last year. However, key actions proposed by the commission under the first act are currently being discussed by parliament and ministers, and not all of these will be in place by the end of this year.

The commission says that the changes that have been introduced have meant a steep fall in the cost of mobile phone calls and air travel.

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At a time of economic crisis, of recession and high unemployment in many EU countries, the Single Market is seen as part of the solution - boosting competition, making trade easier and giving businesses that operate within it access to nearly 500 million consumers.

It is in many ways one of the EU's unalloyed success stories. But the Single Market is by no means complete, and this is another push to try to make it effective in areas which have proved resistant - the transport and energy sectors, for example.

The trouble is the EU has been talking for years about further measures to improve the way the Single Market works - but action has spoken more softly than words.

The crisis in the eurozone is serving as a trigger to shake off some of the complacency, because the need for measures which boost jobs and promote growth is more urgent than ever.

However, the commission says this second act, with a second set of priorities, is now needed to continue expanding ease of investment and movement within the single marketplace.

It contains 12 key ideas under the four headings.

Among the key aims are:

  • making online payments more efficient, the commission says that 35% of internet users do not buy online because they have doubts over payment methods
  • opening up domestic rail passenger services to operators from other member states
  • speeding up the opening up of EU airspace so it operates as a single entity - something the commission says could save air travellers 5bn euros ($6.5bn, £4bn) a year
  • opening up energy markets so the 500 million citizens of the EU can chose their power supply from across the whole EU region - something the commission says could collectively save 13bn euros if all citizens switched to the cheapest tariff

Philippe de Buck, the director general of the business lobby group, Business Europe, said the new act's aims were welcome, but warned it needed political will to ensure it benefited business.

"For the Single Market Act II to deliver growth, it must be accompanied by a renewed commitment from member states, institutions and stakeholders to ensure that single market rules work better in practice and are correctly applied throughout Europe. The new proposals should be carried out swiftly."

The commission will put forward all key legislative proposals of the new act by spring 2013 and the rest by the end of next year.

It hopes that the act will be in force by the spring of 2014.

The European Commissioner for internal market and services, Michel Barnier, said the act provided a chance to kickstart Europe's economy.

"I am convinced that the 12 key actions that we are presenting today will receive the degree of political ownership that they deserve," he said.

"This is our chance to use our golden asset, the single market, to see our social market economy be competitive and thrive again."

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