Europe’s member states were on Tuesday accused of depriving citizens and businesses of their rights by failing to enact laws to open the EU single market.
Charlie McCreevy, European Union internal market commissioner, named the Czech Republic, Portugal, Greece, Italy and Luxembourg as the worst countries in failing to put in place EU single market laws.
Publishing his twice-yearly internal market scoreboard, Mr McCreevy said national capitals were letting the single market slip down their list of priorities, in spite of promises by EU leaders to address the problem.
He warned that progress in implementing EU legislation to tear down trade barriers had gone into reverse, and that new member states were among the worst offenders.
“When member states fail to implement these laws, everyone suffers,” he said. “Businesses and citizens lose their rights.”
Member states had promised to reduce the “transposition deficit” – the number of EU directives which had not been translated into national law – to below 1.5 per cent. But in the last six months that figure rose from 1.6 per cent to 1.9 per cent.
“The failure to break the 1.5 per cent barrier is a great opportunity missed. We are now further from the target. Member states need to get their implementation efforts back on track.”
Mr McCreevy has warned that Europe is in danger of lurching into a period of “economic patriotism” with increased national protectionism but said he was wary about linking that phenomenon with a failure to enact single market laws.
“I think the problem is that in many member states it is not the most important thing on their horizon,” he said.
“That may be worrying if member states don’t think it is important to have a pretty perfect internal market,” he added.
The best performer was Denmark, followed by Cyprus, Hungary, Lithuania, Slovenia and Britain, all of which have fast-growing and relatively open economies. None of them is in the eurozone, where growth is more sluggish.
Luxembourg, host of many European institutions, has the worst record, although it has improved its record in implementing single market rules in recent months.
Mr McCreevy said that new member states still performed better on average than “old” ones, but that their efforts seemed to be slowing down and they were at risk of losing their exemplary records.
The Irish commissioner has been at the forefront of the fight against “economic patriotism”, evident earlier this year in countries such as France, Spain, Poland and Italy, where takeovers in the energy and banking sectors have been thwarted.
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