The aim of this study is to improve the understanding of the relationship and interaction
between European environmental policy and the Single Market. To this end, the project
seeks to identify environmental policy areas where a lack of standardisation of environmental
policies leads to competition distortions and to develop options for policies to overcome
these distortions. The development of the European Single Market is a success story of
European Integration. Policies to ensure the functioning of the Single market are at the heart
of European economic strategies. Today, there is a Single market for most products and
many services for close to 500 million consumers. This opens up tremendous economic
opportunities and contributed considerably to growth and employment within the Union. The
European market and European policies sets the pace also for other regions of the world.
European standards, regulations and policies are imitated and emulated in other countries in
order to gain access to European markets. This is evident also for environmental standards.
For example, European standards for cars, for appliances, for chemicals etc. are a reference
point for environmental standards outside the EU. However, in many environmental policy
areas, there is no uniform approach to environmental standards. In a number of issue areas,
there are commonly agreed objectives and targets on the European level, but it is left to the
Member States to decide on how best to achieve them. This is for good reasons as Member
States dispose of different administrative capacities and legal systems, are characterised by
different political cultures and have different preferences for implementation instruments.
However, as Member States also vary regarding their preferences of environmental quality,
there can also be differences in the level of stringency of standards. Lastly, the cost of
complying with a given standards can also be different, particularly if the 'distance to target'
varies across Member States. It is subject of dispute among stakeholders and among
academics to what extent such flexible Community environmental legislation leads to
competition distortions and in what the effects of such distortions may be. On the one hand,
higher environmental standards and larger 'distance to target' may lead to additional costs
imposed on firms and consumers thereby inhibiting their competitiveness. Stricter
environmental standards have also been perceived by business as trade barriers imposed by
the more ambitious Member States and thereby undermining the Single Market. On the other
hand, there is considerable evidence that ambitious environmental policies stimulate
innovation and eco-efficiency, thereby providing medium and long-term competitive
advantages for certain sectors and countries. This raises the question as to whether, where
and how further standardisation can contribute to both improving environmental effectiveness
and to strengthening the Single market.