60 years of European Union has changed the economic landscape of Europe and the way European countries and businesses interact with each other. EU has laid ground to a remarkable progress in free trade of goods, services, mobility of people and flow of capital in this part of the world. 20 years from the creation of single market in 1992 marks an important milestone and is a good occasion to draw summaries of what was achieved – has the model for market creation and regulation proved effective or not? Looking at what has been done clearly we could clearly see a number of victories, tangible changes, that can be listed in support of the claim. Could we have achieved more? Was everything that EU brought about fully optimal? Was there anything that could be done better? Probably, yes. A number of changes have not come at the speed that was expected, and there is a number of deficiencies or inefficiencies in the system. However, even though we have to live with some of its imperfections, it seems that no other world organisation of free, independent countries would be able to demonstrate more than what EU has accomplished and from this perspective it is still the best system anybody was able to come up with in the recent history and there is more things in support of EU contribution to the creation and regulation of free market than against it.
What has EU achieved
The achievements of EU, especially in the last 20 years are quite obvious and easy to demonstrate for both the citizens, consumers as well as for businesses and countries. Trade between EU countries grew from 800bn in 1992 to 2800bn in 2011 (European Union, 2012). Vast number of trade barriers has been removed, not only the tariffs or trading legislation, but also other type of barriers, such as physical customs controls as well as alignment of technical rules in accepting a product. Now products which are allowed to be traded in one EU country are automatically allowed in another country if they meet home criteria. This is an important simplification in regulations which single-handedly creates markets for producer, which can benefit directly from expanded scale. EU introduced standards for products, safety, telecommunications and environmental requirements which created a level-playing field for producers, increasing competition which has a very positive impact for the ultimate consumers. A number of anti-competition policies enacted in local laws as well as harmonisation of public procurement rules for companies bidding for EU contracts in public sector also contributed to removal of barriers to competition between long established, well connected and large monopolies with the smaller, dynamically growing companies aspiring to access larger scale markets. Although some barriers still exist in this area, for example bureaucratic procedures, difficult to comply with and requirement for local language. EU has also facilitated creation of cross-border market for services (although much is yet to be done in this area), removing requirements for licensing of certain business activities or fixed tariffs for some professions (lawyers, architects). EU businesses, especially companies involved in development of new technologies, innovation and creative processes benefit from stronger protection of intellectual property rights. Some of the most visible symptoms of how the markets have evolved and expanded is the mobility of people, which generated both: more consumers, who can now travel freely and comfortably (due to passenger rigths) within Schengen Area, as well as the market for workforce. Employees can now be sourced from anywhere in EU, reducing imbalance between the supply and demand on labour market. Supply of qualified workforce is easier due to greater availability of education abroad, and mutual recognition of the...