- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 7, 2003

BRUSSELS, Belgium, Jan. 7 (UPI) — Border-free trade in the European Union has created 2.5 million jobs and added $914 billion to the bloc's wealth, the European Commission said Tuesday in a ceremony to mark the 10th anniversary of the world's biggest single market.

European Commissioner Frits Bolkestein said: "The internal market has transformed Europe beyond recognition in 10 years. It has dismantled barriers and opened doors. Europeans can now live, study, work or retire wherever they like in Europe and consumers have a wider choice of high quality products."

Modeling carried out for the commission estimates that frontier free trade in the 15-member club has added 1.8 percentage points to the EU's gross domestic product annually by freeing the European economy of a mass of bureaucratic obstacles and making it easier for companies to do business across the continent.

But businesses have not been the only ones to benefit. The commission says the extra wealth generated by the single market over the past decade has left average European household $5,930 richer over that time.

Removing red tape has also prompted 15 million Europeans to resettle in another EU member state since 1993 and encouraged more than 1 million students to complete part of their studies abroad.

The Brussels-based EU executive body says greater competition among European firms has pushed prices lower and has led to greater choice for consumers.

National telephone calls costs have been cut in half, while promotional airfares are more than 40-percent lower than in 1992, the commission's research shows.

Despite the benefits of border-free trade, Bolkestein said the internal market was still a "work in progress" a decade after it was due to be completed.

The former Dutch minister said the 1,500 infringement cases the commission is pursuing against member states showed the reams of laws adopted in the late 1980s were still not being properly applied.

Bolkestein also accused national governments of dragging their heels on opening up the trade in services, agreeing a community patent and implementing much-needed labor-market reforms.

"It is an illusion to think that we can become the strongest economy in the world if we cannot make the internal market fire on all cylinders," he said.

The commission is due to present a further package of measures aimed at completing the single marker in the spring.

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