Mario Monti at the EESC: "Tell the European Council to care more about the integrity of the single market"

Speaking at an event marking 30 years of the single market, Mr Monti said this anniversary afforded an opportunity for EU institutions to call out the European Council and expose national governments' attempts to hide behind the imperfections of the single market while paying lip service to it.

Mario Monti, former EU antitrust chief and Italian prime minister, called on the EESC in particular, because of its much deeper knowledge and more practical experience of the European economy than other EU institutions, to put forward recommendations in order to step up pressure on the European Council:

"On the occasion of this 30th anniversary, those who really care about the existence and the protection of a working single market should issue recommendations on how the European Council should care more about the integrity of the single market," Mr Monti said, "and maybe shine a light on heads of national governments, prime ministers and presidents, so that they find it more difficult to hide behind the imperfections and the obstacles that they ultimately would like, on some occasions, to put in place to protect their companies, while always preaching that they want a fully-fledged well-functioning single market".

Mr Monti said his long experience in public life had shown him that politicians would not really act unless some blame was put on them publicly, and that European bodies had enough authority to push even national governments in the European Council to behave more consistently.

Mr Monti expressed alarm at what he described as a recent tendency to "play dangerously with state aid" in the EU, particularly in response to the US Inflation Reduction Act, with France and Germany putting joint pressure in asking the EU institutions to soften state aid control and allow Member States to compensate for the financial incentives that the Biden administration had promised to US companies engaging in the green transition.

But the European Union had been promoting its green transition for many years, argued Mr Monti, making it one of the key pillars of Next Generation EU, so it could not be said to have done nothing for its own companies.

"A high number of Member States have viewed this request for flexibility with concern, and rightly so, because to reinforce our European companies so they are better able to withstand competition from other countries through instruments which might well break down the single market or make it less efficient, is not the right approach. As European companies always recognise and underline, this is the primary tool used to make them competitive in the global market," said Mr Monti.

He therefore welcomed the compromise on a less generous temporary framework for state aid than had originally been proposed. "We cannot allow some Member States, especially those which, because of their own commendable efforts, have been able to build a lot of fiscal space and therefore could spend more money than others on state aid, to cause a breakdown of the single market, which would be to the detriment of all," Mr Monti concluded.

The event continued with a debate on the topic of "Towards a Net Zero Industrial Future: Harnessing the Power of the Single Market" with Pierre-Arnaud Proux from the team of Commission executive vice-president Margrethe Vestager; Lina Konstantinopoulou, policy director, Eurochambres; Luc Hendrickx, director Enterprise Policy and External Relations, SMEunited; Judith Kirton-Darling, deputy general secretary, IndustriAll; Josef Středula, chairman of the Czech-Moravian Confederation of Trade Unions and Christel Delberghe, director general, EuroCommerce.

The event was chaired and moderated by Alain Coheur, president of the EESC Section for the Internal Market, Production and Consumption, which organised it.

The EESC will adopt an opinion on "30 years of the single market: how to improve the functioning of the single market" at its April plenary session.

More information on the debate "Towards a Net Zero Industrial Future: Harnessing the Power of the Single Market" will soon be available on the EESC website.


Mario Monti at the EESC: "Tell the European Council to care more about the integrity of the single market"