Understanding the benefits of the European Single Market demands a look at exactly what a Single Market is and how it works. In the U.S., all trade moves freely between states, works with the same currency, and is guided by the same laws and regulations. In 1993, Europe began its own Single Market of trade and business, only on a much grander scale.
Prosperity in EU countries has been shown to increase over the last two decades by 2.15 percent of the Gross Domestic Product or GDP. Figures from 2006 show an overall increase of 240 billion Euros, which translates as 518 Euros for every EU citizen, compared to a previous period with no Single Market. Also, the Single Market regulations replace complicated and different national laws with a new umbrella framework for trade. This reduces paperwork for ordinary working people and compliance costs for businesses, who pass on those savings to consumers. It has also become clear that because many bureaucratic rules and requirements have been eliminated, governments have more money to spend on their own pressing needs, such as education and health.
Figures for the period 1992-2006 show that 2.75 million extra jobs have been created over the period as a direct result of the Single Market. The Single Market means that EU citizens have the right to live, work or study in another EU country. According to the European Commission, more than 15 million EU citizens have moved to other EU countries to work while 1.5 million young people have completed part of their studies in another EU State. The rights of workers have greatly improved through having EU-provided requirements for fair conditions of competition across Europe. Full-time workers are not obliged to work more than a 48-hour week, and are given annual paid vacation of at least four weeks per year. Part-time workers and those on fixed-term contracts are entitled to the same benefits proportionately as full-timers including the same rates of pay, sickness benefit and company pension schemes.
EU citizens can travel throughout the EU without having to carry a passport and without being stopped for ID checks anywhere. Shoppers have the same full consumer rights wherever they are buying, and the sky's the limit on what they can buy and take with them for personal use. According to an EU report of 2007, 73 percent of its citizens think the Single Market has made a positive contribution to what products are offered, while the setting out of common standards means safer, greener goods that are better made: from food and cars to medicines.
The new EU Single Market trade and business umbrella framework means it is easier to start or buy a business -- a business that now suddenly has a new potential 500 million customers. The benefits of this are clear: larger businesses have been able to scale up, while new markets have been opened up to smaller businesses, which might previously have been deterred from exporting by time and expense. Figures show that trade within the EU has risen by 30 percent since 1992. Because there is now no bureaucracy to deal with at national borders, delivery times and costs have been cut considerably. Over the last 18 years, the European Single Market -- the political and economic union of 27 European countries -- has clearly demonstrated itself to be of great benefit.