Speaking at a business seminar on the Future of the EU Single Market, which was co-organised by the Malta Business Bureau and the European Commission Representation in Malta on Friday 23 November, MBB CEO and event moderator Joe Tanti highlighted the importance of the Single Market. “During this critical political juncture of the EU – taking into account the rise of populism and anti-EU sentiment, as well as Brexit – it seems the vast majority of Europeans can certainly unite and declare that the EU has been as successful as it is because of the creation of the Single Market.” He added, “However, it is no secret that there are participants in the legislative process that seem quite disenchanted with the Single Market, and this is often being reflected in negative, even protectionist, positions that are being brought forward by EU Member States in the Council.”
Alexandra Zammit, Economic Analyst at European Commission Representation in Malta, noted this year’s 25th Anniversary since the creation of the Single Market, thus making it the ideal time to discuss its future. Ms Zammit also explained, “During this mandate, the Commission has made a number of proposals to modernise the Single Market and tackle many issues related to excessive bureaucracy, as well as to strengthen the existing regulatory framework in support of growth and competitiveness. However, many of our legislative proposals are still on the table of the co-legislators.” Therefore, she believes that, “the adoption of the pending proposals would already be a necessary first step towards eliminating existing barriers and seizing future opportunities in our Single Market.”
Hon. Dr Chris Cardona, Minister for the Economy, Investment and Small Business, reinforced the Single Market’s importance and spoke of the need to make it fit for the digital age. He stated, “There is no question on the power of the Single Market to create jobs and growth and opportunities for European citizens, however there is no doubt that the Single Market needs to adapt at a more dynamic pace with the realities of today’s world, particularly the digital realities of this era.”
In his address, Kamil Kiljanski, Chief Economist at European Commission DG GROW highlighted the various legislative proposals concerning the internal market that the Juncker Commission has put forward, all attempting to improve the Single Market. Mr Kiljanski also stressed the need to do more, especially when it comes to small businesses. He suggested the introduction of scale-up initiatives, including those relating to access to finance.
In his presentation, Erwan Bertrand, Head of Single Market Policy at Eurochambres, highlighted the main obstacles to cross border faced by European businesses. These include, the varying administrative and technical requirements, inaccessibility of information of such requirements, as well as different national rules on products and services. Mr Bertrand also pointed out the pressure being put on the multilateral trading system, such as President Trump’s attempts to revamp the global trading system. He said, “Although larger Member States seem to be falling out of love with the Single Market, the best path to economic prosperity is through the Single Market.”
Speaking at a panel discussion were: Kamil Kiljanski, European Commission; Erwan Bertrand, Eurochambres; Philip Vella, Ministry for the Economy; Morgan Parnis, Business Leaders Malta. One of the points raised relates to the fact that in Council, the UK was an important pro-Single Market ally. For this reason, there are fears of an imbalance that will favour large Member States with more negative positions once the UK leaves the EU. Panellists also spoke of the need to future-proof all EU legislations, specifically when it comes to digitalisation. This is necessary to take advantage of the opportunities that digitalisation presents.