The Malta Independent 24 September 2021, Friday

€4.7 billion in EU funds to strengthen the Single Market

Wednesday, 28 July 2021, 08:25 Last update: about 3 months ago

Andrea Camilleri

The European single market is one of the EU’s greatest achievements, founded on the principles of free movement of persons, goods, services and capital.

The establishment of these freedoms has allowed citizens to gain access to different goods, provide them with access to jobs and the ability to set up businesses and trade across Europe. This increased access and opportunity has fuelled economic growth, making it more efficient to do business in Europe and providing a better service to consumers across the Member States.

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In recent years though, the success achieved by the EU single market has seen a number of challenges, primarily as a result to the impacts of Brexit and the Covid-19 pandemic. These challenges will most likely continue to stifle the growth of the single market and European economies for the next couple of years. Both Brexit and the pandemic have created difficulties when it comes to the trade of goods, the ability for businesses to provide their services in different countries and they have heavily impacted the ability for the free movement of persons and workers.

As a means to tackle such challenges, the EU is investing in the newly established Single Market Programme (SMP). This new funding programme for the 2021-2027 EU funding period is the first of its kind to be approved by the European Commission and it has been developed so as to invest in the structures which allow the single market to operate in an efficient manner. This was highlighted by Margrethe Vestager, Executive Vice-President for A Europe Fit for the Digital Age and Competition, who noted that the new Single Market Programme regulation “will make the Single Market more effective and will contribute to a sustainable recovery”.

Over the next seven years, €4.7 billion will be made available through the SMP, with the focus being on the following areas: Improving the governance of the internal market; Strengthening the competitiveness of EU industry especially SMEs; Promoting human, animal, plant health and animal welfare, and; Establishing the framework for European statistics.

The SMP brings together different programmes for Union action which existed before 2021 under one programme to streamline and facilitate synergies. It also provides for a more flexible, transparent, simplified and agile structure to fund activities directed towards a well-functioning sustainable internal market.

During the next seven years, different opportunities for funding will be made available through this programme focusing on these different fields. This will serve as a great opportunity for local organisations to develop competitive projects and improve the role they play in this European market. Currently there are five open calls for funding and are the first for this programme. These calls all focus on the four fields highlighted above, with these current calls particularly focusing on strengthening the competitiveness of EU SMEs and the governance of the internal market.

Servizzi Ewropej f’Malta (SEM) can assist local organisations to apply and implement their EU funded projects. In fact, giving one example, SEM has assisted the Malta Competition and Consumer Affairs Authority (MCCAA) to acquire EU funds for the implementation of two projects under the Consumer Programme – which is a predecessor programme to the SMP. Consumer protection is in fact one of the priorities of the new SMP.

Through the first project MCCAA received funding to facilitate consumers’ redress through internal capacity building and improved processes, and by improving its online alternative dispute resolution mechanism. Through the second project, which is currently being implemented, MCCAA received funding for the establishment of the Digital Investigative Unit within the MCCAA and the implementation of an awareness raising campaign, targeting consumers and traders, on the impacts of Regulation (EU) 2017/2394. Through the financing received from this project, the MCCAA will also be able to develop its digital investigation strategy, develop its internal procedures while also increasing the capacity of its staff on the use of online monitoring and e-enforcement tools.

For information on the Single Market Programme or any other matter related to the EU, kindly contact SEM on 2200 3300 or [email protected].

 

Andrea Camilleri, Executive at Servizzi Ewropej f’Malta

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