Download publication

Policy Contribution

Making the best of the European single market

Now more than ever, the EU needs to address concerns about the significant decline in productivity growth and the increasing perception of unfairness. Completing the single market would unlock the EU's growth potential. At the same time, the EU should empower member states to fight inequality by helping them better distribute the gains arising from economic integration.

By: , , and Date: February 2, 2017 Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance

  • The slow-down in productivity and income over the past decade has weakened the European Union’s output legitimacy, which is grounded in delivering prosperity to its citizens. At the same time, decreasing growth reduces the capacity of governments to maintain existing levels of welfare protection and translates into a perception of rising unfairness and inequality across and within EU countries.
  • It is estimated that remaining non-tariff obstacles, in particular in services sectors, limit intra-EU trade to a level about four times smaller than the intensity of trade between US states. By completing the single market, the EU could generate significant income gains. However the more straightforward steps have already been taken, so the single market agenda now touches upon specific domestic regulations in EU countries.
  • We recommend a two-pillar strategy: for sectors with large externalities and/or economies of scale (such as energy or telecoms), regulations should be harmonised and at least close coordination between regulators should be achieved; for other services sectors, the efficiency of individual regulations on a cost-benefit basis with respect to their objective should be assessed, with systematic benchmarking.
  • We also recommend pursuing a credible environmental policy agenda on a destination basis (impacting both EU and non-EU firms) rather than on an origin basis (which is the case today), through a combination of ambitious technical standards, a reference path for the carbon price and revenue-neutral tax instruments. This would stimulate long-term investment in the energy transition without overly hurting EU firms’ competitiveness.
  • To further stimulate investment, especially in innovative sectors, we suggest moving ahead decisively with the capital markets union agenda. In parallel, the use of EU funds should be reviewed taking into account the objectives of economic convergence, spillovers between member states and solidarity.
  • EU national governments are responsible for welfare-related redistribution. However EU policies can help by empowering member countries to address the possible effects of EU integration, or by developing EU-wide instruments to limit its impact on possible losers. We argue that tax and social security avoidance or fraud need to be combatted with modern tools, eg a single electronic interface to monitor the payment of social charges of posted workers in their home countries. In order to fight corporate tax avoidance and improve tax fairness, the interest and royalties directive could be modified if the project of a common, consolidated corporate tax base (CCCTB) proves too difficult to agree.
  • Finally, we recommend making social security systems more neutral with respect to intra-EU migration, eg by introducing the full continuation of home-country unemployment rights for migrant jobseekers, with closer cooperation between national employment services, and by centralising information on pension entitlements on a single platform.
View comments
Read article More on this topic More by this author

Blog Post

Economy of Intangibles

Economists have been discussing the implications of the rise of the intangible economy in relation to the secular stagnation hypothesis, and looking more generally into the policy implications it has for taxation. We review some recent contributions.

By: Silvia Merler Topic: Finance & Financial Regulation Date: July 16, 2018
Read article More on this topic More by this author

Podcast

Podcast

Italy's economic and political outlook

In this week's Sound of Economics, Bruegel affiliate fellow, Silvia Merler, is joined by Marcello Minenna, PhD lecturer at the London Graduate School and Head of Quants at Consob, as well as Lorenzo Codogno, LSE visiting professor, to discuss the Italian government's economic outlook in the European context.

By: The Sound of Economics Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Date: July 11, 2018
Read article More on this topic More by this author

Blog Post

World Cup Economics

As we approach the final rounds of the tournament, here are some recent contributions about the economics and economic impact of the World Cup.

By: Silvia Merler Topic: Global Economics & Governance Date: July 9, 2018
Read about event

Upcoming Event

Sep
3-4
08:30

Bruegel Annual Meetings 2018

The 2018 Annual Meetings will be held on 3-4 September and will feature sessions on European and global economic governance, as well as finance, energy and innovation.

Speakers: Maria Åsenius, Richard E. Baldwin, Carl Bildt, Nadia Calviño, Maria Demertzis, Mariya Gabriel, Péter Kaderják, Joanne Kellermann, Jörg Kukies, Emmanuel Lagarrigue, Philippe Lespinard, Montserrat Mir Roca, Dominique Moïsi, Jean Pierre Mustier, Ana Palacio, Jean Pisani-Ferry, Lucrezia Reichlin, Norbert Röttgen, André Sapir, Jean-Claude Trichet, Johan Van Overtveldt, Margrethe Vestager, Reinhilde Veugelers, Thomas Wieser, Guntram B. Wolff and Georg Zachmann Topic: Energy & Climate, European Macroeconomics & Governance, Finance & Financial Regulation, Global Economics & Governance, Innovation & Competition Policy Location: Brussels Comic Strip Museum, Rue des Sables 20, 1000 Brussels
Read article More on this topic More by this author

Blog Post

EU income inequality decline: Views from an income shares perspective

Over the past decade, the income share of low earners has increased in the EU while that of top earners has slightly declined. Although the upward convergence of the impoverished central European population is impressive, the southern European poor have faced a major setback while the southern European rich have hardly suffered.

By: Zsolt Darvas Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Date: July 5, 2018
Read article More on this topic More by this author

Opinion

Die Unternehmensteuer muss reformiert werden

Der deutsche Kapitalstock schrumpft. Das liegt zum einen an sinkenden Investitionen von Unternehmen. Eine Reform der Unternehmensteuer könnte helfen.

By: Guntram B. Wolff Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Date: July 3, 2018
Read article More on this topic

Opinion

Making Italy grow again

On March 4th, Italians sent a resounding message in favour of a break with the past. The ultimate test for the new ‘government of change’ will be whether it succeeds where all others have failed over the past two decades: bringing the country back to growth. The authors propose three different actions to revamp Italy’s ailing productivity and gear the country’s productive capacity towards the 21st century: human capital, e-government, and green growth.

By: Simone Tagliapietra, Alessio Terzi and Guntram B. Wolff Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Date: June 26, 2018
Read article More on this topic

Blog Post

Understanding (the lack of) German public investment

An array of data suggests that there is a general lack of investment by all branches of the German government, despite running budget surpluses for several years. This blog post plots the progression of the public investment problem, and explores which regions, which sectors, and which levels of government have been most affected.

By: Alexander Roth and Guntram B. Wolff Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Date: June 19, 2018
Read article More on this topic More by this author

Blog Post

Demographics and Long Run Growth

Scholars have been investigating the relationship between demographics and long term growth, in the context of the secular stagnation hypothesis. We review recent contributions.

By: Silvia Merler Topic: Global Economics & Governance Date: June 18, 2018
Read article More on this topic More by this author

Blog Post

The effects of Brexit on UK growth and inflation

The full consequences of Britain’s vote to leave the European Union were never going to be immediately perceptible. As we approach the second anniversary of the UK’s Brexit referendum, we can compare the subsequent economic data for the UK and the euro area and see how it diverges from the trends established before the vote.

By: Francesco Papadia Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Date: May 23, 2018
Read article More on this topic

Blog Post

Completing Europe’s banking union means breaking the bank-sovereign vicious circle

Several euro area leaders, including the German chancellor, her finance minister, and the French president, have recently referred to the need to “complete the banking union.”. These public calls echo those made in more formal settings, and inevitably raise the question of what criteria should be used to assess the banking union’s completeness.

By: Isabel Schnabel and Nicolas Véron Topic: Finance & Financial Regulation Date: May 17, 2018
Read article More on this topic More by this author

Blog Post

Did Economics Fail?

The debate about rethinking economics keeps rambling. We summarise newest contributions to this important discussion.

By: Silvia Merler Topic: Global Economics & Governance Date: May 7, 2018
Load more posts