20 Feb 2024

The Single Market Love Story: 10 digital actions to save the 30-year marriage


The European single market, a pillar of European unity, stands at a critical juncture. The 30-year marriage needs an urgent revival to keep up with the digital age. Whilst digital technology fuels economies and solves societal problems, persistent roadblocks within the single market hamper its potential to become a digital powerhouse, as we stated in our recent manifesto. Today, only 10 out of the top 100 tech companies are European and only 8% of SMEs are trading across one European border.

Companies require competences, capital and a common market to take off, but in the digital age they also need scale and speed. Imagine a unified European AI ecosystem rivalling global giants.

Imagine vibrant tech hubs across the continent, not just isolated pockets of innovation. Think of a seamless digital Europe, where data flows freely, nurturing research and development whilst upholding robust cybersecurity. This is the single market we strive for – a digital powerhouse unshackled from the constraints of fragmentation.

The urgency is clear. With inflation, debt and a Recovery Fund set to expire in two years, national budgets alone cannot support our digital ambitions. We need a united front, a renewed push for harmonisation, a rebooted single market fit for the digital age. Thankfully, the foundation exists. President Delors, thirty years ago, demonstrated that pragmatism can overcome initial doubts. By establishing the single market, he revitalised the European economy.

Today, let’s channel that same spirit, overcome existing hurdles, and turn Europe in the next five years into a ‘Unicorn Powerhouse.’

Commissioner Breton recognises the digital space as a cornerstone of EU action. We applaud the push for common data spaces, robust cybersecurity and responsible AI development. However, the devil lies in the details. Inconsistent digital laws and fragmented regulations in crucial areas have resulted in a labyrinth of burdens, deterring investors and stifling innovation.

This publication delves into 10 major obstacles – from connectivity to cumbersome AI compliance, disparate data laws and inconsistent procurement rules. We propose clear solutions and a roadmap to fix some of the longstanding structural issues that have plagued the EU’s single market for years.

The promise of the single market is one of a prosperous and resilient Europe in turbulent times. Member States need to transcend national borders and build common capacities within critical technologies. Now is the time to walk the talk, to implement, simplify and optimise. It is time to create a stronger united Europe and make it a Digital Powerhouse.

Cecilia Bonefeld-Dahl, Director General DIGITALEUROPE         

Download the full report
For further information, please contact
Vincenzo Renda
Director for Single Market & Digital Competitiveness
Samia Fitouri
Senior Communications Manager
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