The original goal of the EU was to fully unify its members' markets to achieve a situation where all trade barriers are eliminated. As of 2018, how close is the EU to achieving that goal, according to official EU statements?

  • 4
    Do you have a measurement of your own against which to compare "how unified" it is? Or should answers use the ones mentioned in the requested statements? – DonFusili Apr 13 '18 at 6:57
  • @DonFusili fully unified = no difference between trading within one country and trading across borders – JonathanReez Apr 13 '18 at 7:07
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    @JonathanReez That's a somewhat vague definition. Taking it literally, the fact that Ireland drives on the left would count as a trade barrier to continental car producers. – origimbo Apr 13 '18 at 10:39
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    There's an even deeper problem: what exactly constitutes "the market"? This is not a trivial issue: France has and is arguing that "culture" is not part of the market, and thus not of the single market, and therefore English-speaking artists do not have equal access to the French media (Even when those are "commercial" media and therefore obviously part of the market) – MSalters Apr 13 '18 at 13:46
  • @MSalters absolutely everything that involves the exchange of money between people. Obviously the lack of a common language is a big barrier, French laws are a barrier, driving directions on the British isles is a barrier, etc. The only thing excluded would be stuff that's beyond human control, such as the fact that different regions of Europe have different weather. – JonathanReez Apr 13 '18 at 16:34

According to the Official Website of the European Union itself,

hundreds of technical, legal and bureaucratic barriers to free trade and free movement between the EU’s member countries have been abolished

However there are many obstacles remaining, such as

  • fragmented national tax systems impede market integration and undermine efficiency
  • separate national markets still exist for financial services, energy and transport
  • e-commerce between EU countries has been slower to take off than at national level, and rules, standards and practices vary considerably
  • the services sector is lagging behind the goods markets (although it has been possible since 2006 for companies to offer a range of services abroad from their home base)
  • rules on the recognition of vocational qualifications need to be simplified to make it easier for qualified workers to find a job in another EU country.

The page also talks about the financial services market as being a special case

The financial services market is a special case. The EU is seeking to build a strong, secure financial sector — while avoiding a repeat of the 2009 crisis — by supervising financial institutions, regulating complex financial products and requiring banks to hold more capital. The creation of the banking union transferred the mechanisms for bank supervision and resolution from national to EU level in several member countries. There are also plans to set up an EU-wide capital markets union to:
- reduce fragmentation in financial markets
- diversify sources of finance
- strengthen flows of capital between EU countries
- improve access to finance for businesses, particularly small and medium-sized companies.

The page itself shows that it was updated on 4/30/2018, so while it does not go into very much detail, it does seem to be the EU's status of the movement to a unified market.


The EU publishes reports on the energy union. I will use this as a proxy for overall market unification.

What does the energy union aim to do?

First, we have to establish that the energy union project is a good proxy for the market unification.

An objective of the union is:

The energy union means making energy more secure, affordable and sustainable. It will allow a free flow of energy across borders and a secure supply in every EU country, for every European.

Emphasis is mine. From this quote it is clear that we're referring to eliminating trade barriers.

What do the EU reports say?

The Third Report on the State of the Energy Union and its annexes says:

At the same time, work to improve the internal energy market integration and security of supply continues. Regional cooperation, which was initially aimed at improving physical infrastructure and its efficient use, is expanding its scope, and covers aspects such as renewables development and energy efficiency. It could further evolve towards joint renewables projects between Member States and respective project promoters or even towards joint longer-term renewables deployment strategies on regional scale.

From this quote we see that the EU is investing in cross-border energy infrastructure and renewables. From the same report, we can see that renewables are contributing a higher percentage of energy consumed in Europe:

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The EU has attempted to integrate the energy market. The EU claims this is proceeding well. As a proxy measure, the EU's push to use more renewables would support the trend of market integration.

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