The internal market is central to the European Union and is undeniably a success story. The consolidation of this success is linked to the evolution of the economy, society and technology and especially of digital technology. For this reason, the European Commission presented in 2015 various strategies that should be mutually supportive and reinforcing, especially with regard to the digital single market, as well as an ambitious internal market update (goods & services).
In this context, various proposals for measures were submitted in 2016, the support of the Member States being required for their negotiation and their implementation.
The update of the internal market is based on various priorities such as mutual recognition, harmonisation and standardisation measures and improved enforcement for legislation. All these measures pursue a single goal: to simplify daily life and create more opportunities for the consumers, businesses and public authorities that invest, purchase and sell goods and services in the internal European market.
Other factors that can contribute to deepening the internal market are the Energy Union, for which the general framework has been adopted in 2015, and the Commission’s proposals on the Capital Markets Union.
Objectives for Belgium
However, there is no reason for an over-optimistic analysis, given the many barriers that still exist within the internal market some 20 years after its launch: the service sector lags behind the more integrated goods market, despite the progress made, and a number of (non-regulatory) obstacles persist, including the mobility of workers, often in a cross-border context.
This is why Belgium has called for the deepening of the internal market, a vital driver for growth and employment, including a gradual economic, fiscal and social convergence (fight against social dumping).
Among the measures available, Belgium wishes to promote the need for harmonisation which it is worth maximising because it is easier to implement (otherwise, a mutual recognition clause would have to be included in each new minimum harmonisation directive).
It supports a targeted approach in some sectors (digital, ...) for SMEs/innovative start-ups to be taken into account systematically, while maintaining a high level of protection for consumers, workers and the environment.
While it is important that existing legislation (acquis) is properly implemented, any new legislative initiative or new instrument (passport service type or adjustment to be made to the Internal Market Information System (IMI)) cannot lead to an additional cost in terms of administrative charges.
Nevertheless, at this stage, Belgian regrets both the absence of an SME initiative as strong as the Small Business Act (SBA) and the absence of practical proposals and links with industrial policy, which Belgium has been spearheading for the last two years, through its repeated call to develop a European framework in this area and to reinforce the industry through its integration in the European and global value chains by exceeding the traditional opposition between service activities and manufactured goods.
Among the priority themes for Belgium: an integrated market for services, the growth of SMEs/start-ups, improved implementation of the Services directive. Belgium closely monitors the following issues: the collaborative economy, start-ups, simplifying electronic commerce and parcel delivery, discrimination against consumers and entrepreneurs (geo-blocking), the strengthening of the single market for goods and the consolidation of the European framework on intellectual property in the digital environment.
The application of the acquis e.g. through a timely and high-quality transposition require constant work. Belgium supports any initiative (including within the European Commission) that aims to support and strengthen the various contacts/initiatives to improve the situation.