Photo credits Yingko from Getty Images

This year is the 30th anniversary of the European single market, which is surely one of the EU’s greatest achievements. In this day and age, we do not blink twice at the fact that we can easily travel and work throughout the EU and have our goods, services and money move around almost as freely as if it were one country. Our choice of products and services has been enormously expanded, and the younger generations now regard spending a part of their study abroad as an integral part of their education.

It must be stressed that the internal market has never been a perfect set of policies, particularly as regards ensuring a well-developed social dimension to the market. Since its creation in 1993, the trade union movement has insisted that it should not simply exist to benefit businesses but rather that its first priority should be to raise living standards for citizens and improve their working conditions. To this end, our position remains that common rules for Member States’ national economic policies must be established. Workers should be protected from social dumping, the vagaries of undeclared work, letterbox companies and bogus self-employment.

Nevertheless, today the single market could very well be the most appropriate instrument to address the impacts of climate change, to develop a more sustainable and circular economy, and to navigate the digital revolution. The ETUI has embarked upon a process of reflection on how the European single market could be reimagined in a holistic way to provide solutions to current major challenges, including the climate emergency, the aftermath of the pandemic, the digital transformation, the seesawing geopolitical scene and the ongoing war in Ukraine. We have produced a comprehensive report outlining the results of this process for the Belgian Federal Ministry of Economics, as Belgium has already begun preparations for its upcoming Presidency of the Council of the European Union during the first half of 2024. The report will be presented by its authors and discussed with high-level policymakers and key stakeholders at a conference on 9 February at the International Trade Union House in Brussels. The discussants will include Pierre-Yves Dermagne, the Belgian Minister of the Economy and Employment, and Anna Cavazzini, MEP for the Greens/EFA in the European Parliament and Chair of the European Parliament’s Internal Market and Consumer Protection Committee.

This project of the ETUI coincides with the 2023 anniversary edition of the Annual Single Market Report by the European Commission. This working document provides background analysis in anticipation of ‘The Single Market at 30’ Communication, which will be published by the Commission in the coming weeks. Notably, our conference will also take place the same day as the European Council's discussion on how to maintain the integrity of the single market.

You are warmly invited to attend the conference on 9 February – ‘Rethinking the European single market: Moving towards a highly competitive, socio-ecologically sustainable, and resilient Europe’ – which will also be the ETUI’s last event at the International Auditorium before we move to our temporary premises at the Maison du Travail in Schaerbeek.