20 February 2024

New Commission report on competitiveness and the single market, but are they doing enough?

On 14 February 2024, the European Commission released its 2024 Annual Single Market and Competitiveness Report.

Building on the Commission’s 2023 Communication, Long-term competitiveness of the EU: looking beyond 2030, it follows developments in this area according to nine competitiveness drivers, namely  the functioning of the Single Market, access to private capital, public investment and infrastructure, research and innovation, energy, circularity, digitalisation, education and skills, and trade and open strategic autonomy. Crucially, on the first point on the functioning of the Single Market, we see an emphasis on regulatory burden and simplification and a focus on the challenges for SMEs.

The report itself details the benefits of the Single Market. However, it also points to certain weaknesses such as the need for enforcement of rules and simplification of their implementation. Perhaps the most pressing challenge for MET employers which is dealt with in this report, is the labour and skills gap, dealt with under the point on education and skills. The Commission highlights what has already been achieved; however, they concede that there is still much to be done in this area. One upcoming initiative which is highlighted is the follow-up to the Val Duchesse Social Partners Summit, where the Commission, in cooperation with social partners, agreed to come forward with an Action Plan to address labour and skills shortages, by spring 2024.

One of the other issues of interest for Ceemet, investment, remains buoyant according to the report, with both private and public investment remaining high; the latter recovered recently due to the Recovery and Resilience Facility, according to the Commission. Another area of interest for MET employers is energy costs, and while the report highlights that they remain a challenge, it also points to the measures implemented in recent years to mitigate this challenge.

The Commission report will now serve as a basis for discussions with the European Parliament and EU Council. It also comes ahead of the long-awaited reports from Mario Draghi and Enrico Letta on the future of European competitiveness and of the Single Market, respectively.

Ceemet welcomes many of the elements of the Commission’s report. However, after many years of over-regulation, and the creation of burdensome reporting obligations, is this enough to regain the lost competitiveness which European companies have experienced? 

The EU single market is of paramount importance to MET employers but its role as one of the drivers of EU competitiveness cannot be taken for granted. We must see the Single Market further deepened with a renewed focus on better regulation, particularly in the social field. International competition is fierce and European MET companies are at the forefront of it, they need to be supported to continue their investment and innovation with a business-friendly environment.