The Malta Independent 8 March 2021, Monday

A single European market

Alfred Sant MEP Monday, 18 January 2021, 07:59 Last update: about 3 months ago

The project to establish a single European market as a means by which to unify national economies into one continental entity was a powerful idea. For it to succeed, major national divergences had to be smoothed over. One curious twist was that UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher featured among those who were very active to achieve such a goal. In her view, a unified free market would not undermine the political sovereignty of member states.


However as the situation developed, the single market also came to imply that every country had to accept common regulations regarding how whole sectors of the economy were to be run. And in many cases, the need was for acceptance of common laws and courts of justice. The UK eventually opted out of this process.

In economies that increasingly are centering on services which revolve around digital technologies, the construction of the single European market will clearly need to build on a further dilution of national sovereignties. Current regulations and their supervision as well as the establishment of more measures intended to safeguard the integrity of a single continental market will all be tending this way.   



A friend of mine – that’s how I shall call him – said: I just could not make sense of what you claim about the difficulties to maintain proper coordination in this country between the different sectors involved when some big project is being envisaged.

It’s not true that this happens because the different sectors concerned have traditionally been set out in rigid divisions or compartments, so that their present mamagers are unaccustomed to work closely with outsiders.

Rather, the real reason why it is so difficult to coordinate matters easily is that in a minute society like ours, information is considered as a source of power and control. To share such information with others, who might be – or might become – competitors, simply serves to weaken one’s own economic and social position.

So keep all information close to your chest as much as you can – don’t act stupid and let somebody else have a look in.

...Cynics do not always get it wrong.



A similar argument related to the small size of our society can be made in the context of proposals being advanced on constitutional reform. Some proposals are innovative, even if not completely.

The problem is that they take off from the experience of other European states. What’s wrong with that? – some will ask. Aren’t we European?

What’s unsettling about current proposals is that they all seem to forget the deep problem this island has with size. Even an executive president, or a chief justice, will have their worries about what could happen to their families. When their children and grandchildren will need to find a job, they will probably find themselves coming face to face with the institutions and people whom the President will have been obligating to follow stricter rules, or while the Chief Justice will have been judging cases in which they would have had a deep interest.

Meanwhile, networks of friends of friends remain active. Which constitutional change is likely to compensate for this reality? 

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