Commission proposes new mechanism to protect EU common market during crisis

The European Commission presented a proposal for a new Single Market Emergency Instrument (SMEI) which would become the European Union’s governance framework for preserving the free movement of goods, services and persons and the availability of essential goods and services in the event of emergencies such as the COVID-19 pandemic.


The proposal, presented on Monday, aims to address structural shortcomings that were made apparent during the pandemic, which hampered the EU’s ability to effectively respond to emergency situations in a coordinated manner, leading to unilateral measures and fragmentation, which worsened the crisis particularly affecting SMEs.


The proposals will now be passed to the European Parliament and the Council of the EU for discussion and approval.


“The COVID-19 crisis made it clear: we must make our Single Market operational at all times, including in times of crisis,” Commission Executive Vice President for the digital transition Margrethe Vestager said.


“We need new tools that allow us to react fast and collectively. So that whenever we face a new crisis, we can ensure that our Single Market remains open and that goods of vital importance remain available to protect European people,” she added.


Commissioner for the Internal Market, Thierry Breton, further noted that “we must be better prepared to anticipate and respond to the next crisis”.


“Rather than relying on ad hoc improvised actions, the Single Market Emergency Instrument will provide a structural answer,” he explained, adding that the SMEI “will ensure better coordination with Member States, help pre-empt and limit the impact of a potential crisis on our industry and economy, and equip Europe with tools that our global partners have and that we lack”.


The Single Market Emergency Instrument complements other EU legislative measures for crisis management like the Union Civil Protection Mechanism, as well as EU rules for specific sectors, supply chains or products like health, semiconductors or food security, which already foresee targeted crisis response measures.


The proposal for a Single Market Emergency Instrument for dealing in crisis on an EU level includes:


– Creating a crisis governance architecture for the Single Market through identifying different levels of risk and coordinating an appropriate response comprising several stages – contingency, vigilance and emergency modes. When a threat to the Single Market has been identified, the Commission can activate the vigilance modem in case of a crisis with a wide-ranging impact on the Single Market, the Council can activate the emergency mode.


– Proposing new actions to address threats to the Single Market, such as, in vigilance mode, focusing on monitoring supply chains of identified, strategically important goods and services as well as on building up strategic reserves. During emergency mode, free movement in the Single Market will be upheld through a blacklist of prohibited restrictions and, more generally, through reinforced and rapid scrutiny of unilateral restrictions.


– Allowing last-resort measures in an emergency by the Commission, such as issuing targeted information requests to economic operators, which can be made binding or asking them to accept priority rated orders for crisis-relevant products. Rules permitting such derogations are laid down in separate proposals for a Regulation and a Directive amending a number of product-specific regulatory regimes, which accompany the SMEI Regulation.


Source: Cyprus News Agency