The single market has brought very tangible benefits to European citizens

The single market has brought many real benefits to European citizens, the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) argues in its response to the European Commission's assessment of the state of play of the single market. Affordable air travel, the end of roaming charges, enhanced job opportunities in a continent-wide labour market, consumer rights that offer a high level of protection across borders. This success story can be an antidote against populism, nationalism and protectionism, says the EESC.

The EESC's plenary on 15 May adopted an opinion on the Commission's communication The Single Market in a changing world: A unique asset in need of renewed political commitment, which reviews 25 years of the single market and outlines the challenges ahead.

The single market has been a tremendous accomplishment, the EESC says in its opinion, and the EU must ensure citizens are aware that many of the very real benefits they have enjoyed in the past 25 years as consumers, business owners or workers are the result of the single market - benefits which are estimated to amount to 8.5% of EU GDP:

For European companies, the single market has meant opportunities to scale up and expand their activities across the EU. Globally, it has given Europe the leverage of a 512-million-strong market, as recently shown by international efforts to comply with the General Data Protection Regulation.

This success story can help rally the support needed to make the single market fit for the digital era, the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) argues.

The single market must also be perceived as an opportunity to reassert European values and rights: "The values of freedom, economic growth, democracy, peace, science and innovation, political stability, consumer and social rights must always be present in citizens' minds. They are enablers of progress and prosperity for all Member States and citizens," says opinion rapporteur Gonçalo Lobo Xavier.

"The single market affects everyone, and that's what makes it so powerful", says opinion co-rapporteur Juan Mendoza Castro, "We need to combat populist and nationalist threats, which are on the rise in Europe, and the single market is one of the best tools we have to counter these messages".

The EESC also focuses on the EU's competition policy. Its rules limiting state aid and fighting against abuse of dominant positions have been a source of dynamism for the European market and benefits for consumers and businesses. However, in the face of harsh global competition from (sometimes state-owned) oligopolies or monopolies, the EU should demand reciprocity from its trade partners to help European companies vie for markets. (dm)