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Glossary of summaries

The internal market refers to the single market within the EU’s territory.

The aim is to have an area without internal frontiers or regulatory obstacles in which the free movement of goods, persons, services and capital is ensured in accordance with the articles of the Treaties.

Free movement of goods (Articles 26 and 28-37 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU))

  • With the creation of the internal market, customs duties and quantitative restrictions were eliminated.
  • The free movement of goods relies on the principles of mutual recognition of national technical rules, the removal of physical and technical barriers, and standardisation.
  • In 2008, a new legislative framework was adopted boosting the free movement of goods by means of the EU’s market surveillance system and the CE mark.

Free movement of capital (Articles 63 to 66 TFEU)

  • Restrictions on capital movements and payments, between EU countries as well as between EU countries and with non-EU countries have been prohibited since 2004, as a result of the Maastricht Treaty. However, there are some exceptions that are primarily linked to taxation and public policy considerations.
  • The free movement of capital contributes to economic growth by enabling capital to be invested efficiently and promotes the use of the euro as an international currency.

Freedom of establishment and to provide services (Articles 26, 49 to 62 TFEU)

The freedom of establishment and the freedom to provide services guarantee mobility of businesses and professionals within the EU. The self-employed and professionals or legal persons within the meaning of Article 54 TFEU who are legally operating in one EU country may:

  • carry out an economic activity in a stable and continuous way in another EU country (freedom of establishment: Article 49 TFEU); and
  • offer and provide their services in other EU countries on a temporary basis while remaining in their country of origin (freedom to provide services: Article 56 TFEU).

Free movement of workers (Articles 26 and 45-48 TFEU)

  • This covers aspects such as the rights of movement and residence for workers, the rights of entry and residence for family members, and it entails the abolition of any discrimination based on nationality as regards employment, remuneration and other conditions of work and employment. Restrictions may apply for the public service.
  • The European Labour Authority serves as a dedicated agency for the free movement of workers, including posted workers.

Having no regulatory obstacles to free movement means:

  • EU businesses benefit from:
    • a large market of over 400 million consumers;
    • access to many suppliers of goods and services within the single market;
    • lower costs because of economies of scale and harmonised rules, standards and requirements across the territory.
  • EU citizens benefit from:
    • the creation of additional jobs;
    • lower prices and a wider selection of products and services;
    • quality and safety, assured by harmonised rules and standards;
    • the benefits of more innovation, research and development;
    • the opportunity to live, work, study and do business throughout the EU;
    • selling goods and moving money without restrictions.

Some non-EU countries also align their rules to those of the single market, extending its effects beyond the EU. These include non-EU members of the European Economic Area: Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein. Switzerland also trades with the single market through bilateral agreements with the EU. Candidate and potential candidate countries also seek to align their legislation with the EU acquis as one of the conditions of their future membership of the EU.