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'I start from a big, red alarm' - Enrico Letta urges radical EU single market shake-up

"I start from a very red, strong red alarm, a big red alarm. The gap is growing with the US." The alarm that Enrico Letta so vividly envisages is the wake-up call he believes the European Union needs in order to see that the single market is in critical need of development in order to keep with rivals such as the USA and China, and to adapt to global geopolitical developments over the past three decades.

The former Italian prime minister and academic has just compiled a report commissioned by the Belgian presidency of the EU on the future of the single market. It was created 31 years ago in a move that turbocharged the integration of the bloc's internal economy. The gist of his review is that this groundbreaking innovation needs to take another leap forward.

“The single market as it is today is not enough, because it was conceived for a world that is no longer there", he says.” His comprehensive study took six months to complete and involved a tour of 65 cities and some 400 meetings.

The single market was founded in 1993 in a very different global financial and trade environment. "When Jacques Delors launched the SM, the Soviet Union was still there, Germany wasn’t united, China and India together were 4% of world GDP," Professor Letta says. "The big of today and tomorrow has to be bigger because the dimensions of China, of the US, the BRICs has completely changed."

Three sectors; energy, financial services and telecoms are not part of the single market and Letta believes fragmentation in these sectors damages Europe’s competitiveness: "We are having 100 telecom operators in Europe, fragmented in each country 3, 4, 5 operators," he adds. "In the US there are 3, in China each operator has more than 467 million clients."