European single market

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  • European Union
  • EFTA countries with access to the European internal market with exceptions
  • DCFTA with restricted access
  • European Customs Union (EUCU)
  • The European internal market is the common internal market of the member states of the European Union , which has officially existed under this name since January 1, 1993. According to the German Federal Ministry of Economics , the European single market was the largest common market in the world in 2009 with the expansion of the European Union to 28 member states.

    The four fundamental freedoms

    European single market: German special postage stamp from 1992

    The four fundamental freedoms form the basis of the European Union's internal market . Its legal basis can be found in the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU).

    Free movement of goods

    There is unlimited trade between the member states. The relevant provisions can be found in Art. 28 TFEU ​​(Customs Union), Art. 30 TFEU ​​(prohibition of import and export duties and charges having the same effect) as well as in Art. 34 and Art. 35 TFEU ​​(prohibition of quantitative import and export restrictions as well Measures with equivalent effect).

    Free movement of persons

    In addition to the general freedom of movement for Union citizens under Art. 21 TFEU, there are special characteristics in the form of the free movement of workers in Art. 45 TFEU ​​and the freedom of establishment in the Union in Art. 49 TFEU.

    A distinction must be made between freedom of movement and free movement of persons according to Art. 67 ff. TFEU, which also apply to third-country nationals .

    Freedom to provide services

    This is to ensure that every entrepreneur with a branch in a member state of the EU is allowed to offer and carry out his services in the other member states. It is regulated in Art. 56 TFEU.

    Free movement of capital and payments

    The free movement of capital and payments allows the transfer of funds and securities of any amount not only between member states, but also between member states and third countries ( Art. 63 TFEU). A special feature of this fundamental freedom is that it also applies in principle to third-country nationals , although restrictions are possible. The main features of the free movement of capital are to be deepened by a capital markets union by 2019 .

    Effects of the fundamental freedoms

    Addressee of the fundamental freedoms

    The main addressees of the fundamental freedoms are the member states (namely the legislative bodies as well as the authorities and courts ). In order to actually realize these freedoms, however, a harmonization of the laws is often necessary. The institutions of the European Union are also bound by the fundamental freedoms. Private action is also affected if the state has to account for actions organized under private law. Furthermore, there is a direct third-party effect if private organizations have a special collective power, such as sports clubs (see Bosman decision ) and, according to the more recent case law of the ECJ, also trade unions.

    Protection obligations

    For example, in German law, under certain conditions, a claim against the state for protection against unlawful interference by private parties is derived from the fundamental rights of freedom ( third-party effect of fundamental rights). The fundamental freedoms of the European Union can have corresponding effects.

    The provisions on the individual fundamental freedoms stipulated that any restriction of the fundamental freedom in question is "prohibited". The term “forbidden” also allows for a more extensive understanding that restrictions on the fundamental freedoms mentioned should generally be prevented regardless of their origin and that, ultimately, a comprehensive guarantee of the fundamental freedoms is sought. Since every member state is obliged to take all appropriate measures to fulfill its obligations under European law ( Article 4, Paragraph 3 of the EU Treaty ), claims can be made against the state for protection against illegal interference by private individuals under certain conditions.

    One example is the right to the free movement of goods: Trade barriers can not only come from the Member States or the European Union itself, but also from private individuals. In this context, the ECJ in 1997 condemned France for not taking action against the looting of Spanish trucks carrying agricultural products.

    In accordance with this judgment, the member states and the organs of the European Union may be obliged in their capacity to intervene against restrictions on fundamental freedoms by private individuals. However, this only applies if the impairing actions of private individuals are not in the area of ​​the legitimate exercise of fundamental rights. If there is such an obligation to protect fundamental freedoms, those in need of protection can enjoy subjective rights .

    In its dogmatic structure, the protective right basically follows the right of defense . However, unlike the constellation under defense law, the member states have a wide discretion with this protection as to whether and which measures they take. However, you may not make any unreasonable judgments. The same applies to the selection of measures. In this respect, under European law, it is only necessary to assess whether suitable measures have been taken to achieve the goal, which may not be obviously unsuitable. In no case can the Member States be expected to achieve a certain level of success. In contrast to the right of defense, the property right therefore only conveys a kind of "protection of materiality", at least according to the conventional view.

    The ECJ has so far only expressly affirmed the Member States' protective obligations for the free movement of goods. For the assumption that duties to protect are to be derived from all fundamental freedoms, the fact that the interpretation based on teleological aspects can be carried out in the same way for all fundamental freedoms and that the fundamental freedoms have dogmatically developed largely in parallel and a clear tendency towards one speaks first unifying interpretation by the ECJ exists. Furthermore, these have an identical objective. Nevertheless, great caution is advisable with regard to accepting such protective obligations. These are only possible under strict conditions, some of which have been pointed out by the ECJ (further state discretion, evidence control, persistent, obvious violation), but still need to be further developed.

    Enforcement problem

    Every member state tries to undermine these freedoms in order to protect its own population and economy or other interests. The occasion is often only a temporary one. If the European Court of Justice is referred to in this case , it often takes longer, so that when the judgment is pronounced the case is no longer relevant, but the member state has in the meantime asserted its interests. Examples can be found in agriculture or in industry.

    Legal alignment in the European single market

    The European internal market is not completed by the four basic freedoms mentioned. This requires various measures at European level that have already been taken or on which the member states have not yet been able to agree.

    The following sections deal with examples of some legal areas that are relevant for the European internal market (see also: Legal approximation in the European Union ).

    Tax law

    With the abolition of internal customs borders and the common customs tariff to the outside world, the European internal market represents a customs union . Comprehensive harmonization (approximation) of excise duties would also be necessary in order to fully achieve equal market conditions throughout the European Union . Since Art. 113 calls for unanimous resolutions on this matter, such harmonization appears difficult to enforce. For this reason, the member states of the European Union continue to apply different tariffs for consumption taxes, and in the case of commercial goods traffic it is no longer the customs authorities but the tax offices that are responsible for collecting and offsetting the various taxes when crossing the internal border . The sales tax identification number (USt-IdNr.) Is used for this.

    In the private trade of goods, however, different taxes are not levied; here the goods are simply taxed in the country of origin. As a result, consumers (especially those near the border) can benefit from different tax rates when shopping.

    Harmonization of technical standards and product approvals

    The same applies to the area of ​​trade in goods: the individual member states prescribe a wide variety of requirements for products intended for sale within the framework of their national legislation (e.g. safety regulations).

    The European Court of Justice ruled in its Cassis-de-Dijon decision that goods manufactured in accordance with regulations in one EU member state may be sold in all other member states. However, he allows exceptions if they are necessary for compelling reasons.

    However, this judgment can have undesirable consequences:

    • on the one hand, existing, different, regulations can represent a restriction of the internal market and
    • on the other hand, the country of origin principle associated with the Cassis de Dijon decision can lead to a competitive advantage for those states that apply very liberal regulations.

    Therefore an alignment of the regulations was sought. For this purpose, among other things, European standards (EN) were drawn up and guidelines adopted that led to the dismantling of trade barriers between the member states of the European Union.

    In February 2008 , based on an agreement with the Council of the European Union , the European Parliament passed a legislative package designed to strengthen the free movement of goods within the internal market. In particular, the principle of mutual recognition is strengthened, which means that a product approved in one member state must also be approved for sale by the authorities of the other countries.

    Freedom to provide services

    The Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union prohibits discrimination on the basis of nationality, but service providers who are established in one Member State may not simply provide their services in other Member States; rather, the formalities required under national law must be complied with. Among other things, the controversial European Services Directive is intended to contribute to liberalization.

    Professional qualifications

    The fundamental freedoms are intended to enable workers and entrepreneurs to carry out their activities throughout the internal market. Often, an activity can only be started in the Member States if one can provide evidence of appropriate training. In order to facilitate the recognition of the training, initiatives have been taken at European level, such as:

    "Negative" and "positive" integration

    Even if the elimination of internal borders in the European internal market ( negative integration ) has not yet been completed, it is much more advanced than the development of a common policy to establish a regulatory framework for this internal market ( positive integration ). While the nation states forego a number of political control instruments through their participation in the internal market (e.g. an independent customs and trade policy, the control of migration movements and the limitation of access to the labor market, etc.), despite all the criticism of the supposed regulatory rage - at the level of the European Union no competencies to act with a comparable scope have been created. This means that regardless of national policy-making, participation in the internal market in the EU member states alone has had a strong effect of market liberalization and deregulation. This effect can be reinforced by applying country-of- origin principles, as this means that the various legal systems are in competition.

    This effect is reinforced by the fact that negative integration has long been stipulated in the contract and is also enforced against the member states by supranational institutions such as the European Commission and the European Court of Justice (e.g. in infringement proceedings ).

    For positive integration , however, new legislative acts are necessary and, under the conditions of the political system of the European Union, this requires the consent of a large number of political actors with the most varied of interests and goals, which is often difficult to achieve, especially given different national policy models. In the meantime, the organs of the European Union have been empowered to set minimum regulations, for example in the areas of transport ( Art. 91 TFEU), environmental protection ( Art. 191 and Art. 192 TFEU), consumer protection ( Art. 169 TFEU), labor law and occupational safety (e.g. Art. 153 TFEU), which was also used.

    Expansion of the European internal market

    The European internal market and the tax or customs area of ​​the European Union basically include its member states and those areas with internal autonomy whose external relations are managed by a member state. However, there are deviations for historical reasons (see: Territory of the European Union ).

    The following are particularly linked to the European internal market:

    International significance

    In an international comparison, the European single market is currently the largest economic area in the world. A table is shown below to show the European single market in comparison to the other economic areas worldwide:

    European single market United States China Japan Unasur ASEAN India
    GDP 2017 $ 19,453.3 billion $ 19,390.6 billion $ 11,951.6 billion $ 4,872.1 billion $ 3,908.6 billion $ 2,752.3 billion $ 2,611.0 billion



    The four basic freedoms of the internal market were already the subject of the EEC Treaty of 1957. By the end of the 1970s, however, they were still far from being realized.

    For example, tariffs on goods had been abolished in the European Community ; However, the free movement of goods was hindered , especially before the Cassis-de-Dijon decision of the European Court of Justice in 1979, by a large number of non-tariff barriers to trade , such as different product standards and approval procedures in the individual member states.

    Similarly, different training, study and examination regulations , which were not recognized by the Member States or only recognized in complex procedures, acted as obstacles to the free movement of workers .

    Genscher Colombo Initiative and Single European Act

    Removing these obstacles was one of the goals of the Genscher Colombo Initiative of 1981. The then West German Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher and Emilio Colombo , Italian Foreign Minister, drafted a draft for a reform of the EC treaties , the Single European Act (EEA) . On this basis, Jacques Delors , President of the European Commission from 1985 to 1995, developed an extensive reform program that provided for more than 300 individual legislative acts.

    The contractual basis for this was created in 1987 when the Single European Act came into force, which amended the EC Treaty in numerous points; Programmatically, among other things, the goal of realizing the internal market as an “area without internal borders” by December 31, 1992 (Art. 14 EC Treaty, now Art. 26 TFEU) was declared.

    In order to create a uniform legal framework for the internal market, the European Communities were given new responsibilities for the adoption of directives and regulations in the areas of safety and health protection at work (now in Art. 153 TFEU), consumer protection (now in Art. 169 TFEU) and environmental protection (now Art. 191 ff TFEU).

    At the same time, the decision-making process for the implementation of the relevant provisions should be accelerated by greatly expanding the scope of qualified majority voting in the Council of the European Union .

    New concept

    The European harmonized technical standards form an important basis for the European internal market. Since the introduction of the New Concept in 1985, European standards (EN) have been drawn up in all economic sectors , which have led to the dismantling of trade barriers between the member states of the European Union. An estimated 150,000 national standards before 1985 became 13,000 harmonized European standards in 2007. States wishing to join the European Union must first become members of the European standardization organizations, the European Committee for Standardization and CENELEC , and adopt a large part of the EN and withdraw national standards.

    Schengen Agreement

    To support the open passenger traffic were Schengen Agreement , the 1985 Schengen Agreement and the Schengen Convention of 1990 closed. The latter came into force in March 1995 and led to the complete abolition of border controls on persons. Since the United Kingdom prevented the agreements from being incorporated into the EC treaties , they were initially international agreements outside the law of the European Communities or the European Union . It was not until 1997 that the international treaty provisions were transferred to the law of the European Union as a Schengen acquis with the Treaty of Amsterdam , but without the United Kingdom and Ireland .

    Transitional provisions for the accession of new states

    When Portugal, Spain and Greece joined, transition periods of up to seven years were agreed upon, within which the free movement of workers in particular is still restricted for nationals of the acceding states. There were comparable transitional provisions for the Eastern European countries that joined in 2004 and 2007. However, as special excise taxes (e.g. for alcohol or tobacco) have only been gradually harmonized, import restrictions are also temporarily permitted. The full implementation of the Schengen acquis also took place only after a transitional phase and an evaluation of Schengen eligibility. The various transitional provisions apply to different deadlines, some of which are set in advance, also contain extension options or are still indefinite.

    EU legal acts are still being enacted or adapted to further approximate the objectives of the internal market. Examples of this are the politically controversial European Services Directive or the ordinance of June 7, 2007 to limit roaming charges.

    Economic consequences

    The creation of the European single market contributed to a new economic dynamic in the EU in the 1990s, namely in a temporarily difficult global economic framework, among other things because of an economic crisis in Japan , the Asian crisis in 1997/98 and a recession in many Eastern European countries the collapse of the Eastern Bloc .

    The peripheral states of the EU benefited more than average from the creation of the internal market: for example, economic growth in Ireland increased from around 2.5% before the establishment of the internal market to 9.5% in the second half of the 1990s. Adjusted for inflation, per capita income rose from US $ 20,650 in 1988 to US $ 53,000 in 2007; it rose faster in these 20 years than in the previous 40 years.


    • Werner Weidenfeld , Wolfgang Wessels (ed.): Europe from A to Z. Pocket book of European integration . (latest edition) Federal Agency for Civic Education , Bonn.
    • Fritz W. Scharpf : Political options in the completed internal market . In: Markus Jachtenfuchs, Beate Kohler-Koch (ed.): European integration . Leske + Budrich, Opladen 1996, pp. 109-140.

    Web links

    Individual evidence

    1. Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology: Report on the European Economic Area from May 4, 2009, ( Memento of the original from March 19, 2012 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was automatically inserted and not yet checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
    2. ^ Judgment of the ECJ in case C-438/05, ITF / FSU .
    3. European Parliament “Internal market package in plenary: Product approval should become less bureaucratic” ( Memento of the original from April 28, 2008 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and not yet checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /