A Social Europe or a more protectionist one? The single market in the aftermath of the crises
The objective of this chapter is to present the most important single market changes in the aftermath of the crises that hit the European Union (EU) after 2008. As a result of various economic and social problems, European societies were reluctant to adopt liberal solutions. Furthermore, an increasing number of leading politicians, both in the member states and within EU institutions, have ceased to support the previous direction of liberalisation in the single market which consisted in extending the four treaty freedoms (i.e. movement of persons, goods, services and capital in this market) and removing protectionist barriers in each individual country. There was also a growing influence of EU regulations on the competitiveness of specific players in the single market as well as on the distribution of costs and benefits between the actors involved in economic exchanges. An important consequence of the crises was the desire to introduce in the EU minimum social and labour market standards. On the one hand, the Union actions can improve working conditions and increase social protection of EU citizens, including bridging the gaps in employment and social welfare conditions between western and eastern part of the EU. On the other hand, they can limit the freedom of movement of workers and protect jobs in Western Europe at the expense of Central Europe. They can also lead to increased costs for state budgets in poorer countries and may reduce their economic competitiveness on the internal market.