An economic milestone, the single market changed lives for businesses and for people right across the continent and is continuing to do so today.
The European Union’s single market celebrates its 30th birthday in 2023.
An economic milestone, it changed lives for businesses and for people right across the continent and is continuing to do so today.
Goods, services and money can easily move around one of the world's largest economies.
And so can we. You can go abroad and live, study or retire there.
We can buy things online without geographical restrictions and return or cancel them, no questions asked.
Phone calls are cheaper and so are airfares. There are no customs, tariffs or taxes for businesses buying and selling in the EU. Products have the same safety and environmental standards.
The EU has greater clout to negotiate trade agreements with the rest of the world.
New challenges ahead
But the single market isn't static, it evolves as the economy changes.
Kerstin Jorna is the European Commission's Director-General for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs.
"It feels like being in the single market base camp," she says. "Because there’s the health crisis - COVID is still around - there is the energy crisis, following the Russian aggression. And this is really where we are and what we are focussing on by leveraging the single market.
"Health: we need vaccines, we had none when this started and by working together by buying the vaccines together, by building a full industrial supply chain for vaccines, I am confident we will have enough vaccines for our citizens and citizens around the world.
"The second point is the energy system. We have to wean ourselves off Russian fossil fuel and there are two ways the single market can help: number one we can procure and work together to procure the energy that we need. And the second is that we accelerate together the role of renewable energy."
Jorna says the single market is integral to the green and digital transition.
"It’s core, because it builds the business case for the transition," she says. "For a business case you need inputs, you need technology, you need legal skills and you need a market for this new product and this is what the single market and our tools in the single market toolbox actually achieve. Because we finance innovation and research, we have skills partnerships for the new skills, we have the market regulation Fit for 55 package and we also allow for the market uptake. And that is a business case for investors to come in, because we do need investment."
Clean energy systems anywhere in Europe
In Rotterdam in the Netherlands, Skoon Energy rents out clean energy systems across Europe to construction sites, ports and more, cutting the need for diesel generators.
Founder Peter Paul van Voorst tot Voorst says the single market has meant Skoon has been able work across borders.
"Wherever you are in Europe," he says. "You want to learn from a deployment which has been done in another country before. So within clean energy, there is so much data being generated, if you don’t learn from it, you lose a lot of value. So we are very happy that we are starting this in Europe, that we are in the Netherlands and we can easily expand to the rest of Europe because that’s when our product really thrives."
Skoon also provides batteries to power TV and film sets.
“We have film production companies filming all across Europe and it doesn't matter in which European country they are, they can use the solutions that we have locally or that we can ship across European borders without problems," he says.
Meanwhile, in the Dutch town of Tiel, Skoon has launched another project: a hybrid power system for refugee accommodation. The yellow generator charges the battery next to it, which then quietly provides electricity for families living there.
"One thing you want when you're a refugee arriving in accommodation is to be able to sleep well and to sleep in silence," says van Voorst tot Voorst. "That's why the municipality of Tiel chose not to work with a diesel generator 24/7 to run this accommodation."
The battery is silent, but it has other advantages too, saving more than 2,000 litres of diesel a week, €5,000 a week and 6,000 kilogrammes of CO2 emissions.
Thirty years after it was founded, the single market continues to help Europe navigate choppy waters, driving forward innovation and trade.