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Single Market Award 2009 - briefing

14 October 2009
by eub2 -- last modified 14 October 2009

On Wednesday 14 October, the Swedish Presidency and the European Commission jointly presented the Single Market Award for the first time. The Award highlights the importance of the free movement principles of EU's Internal Market and went to Aurora de Freitas of Portugal. Since 2004 Ms de Freitas has been lobbying French administrations to make it easier for Portuguese citizens to be granted residence permits in France.


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What is the Single Market Award?

The Single Market Award aims to highlight the importance of the internal market and raise awareness of the opportunities associated with the free movement of persons, goods, services and capital within the EU. The Award also calls attention to the problems that may arise when the internal market's regulations do not work in practice. The Single Market Award is a recognition of companies, people or organisations that have helped to improve the internal market.

Who is Mrs Aurora de Freitas?

The winner of the 2009 Single Market Award is 65 years old, a Portuguese citizen who has been living in France since 1968. She worked as a seamstress and stylist for many years, and is now retired. Aurora de Freitas devotes her life to helping others assert their rights in the EU internal market. She works out of her home and covers all her costs on her own.

Why did she win the award?

The grounds for choosing Aurora de Freitas as the winner state that she is a citizen who understands that people's rights in the internal market are worth fighting for, not just for one's own sake but for the sake of one's fellow citizens. One example of this work is the personal campaign that she has been running since 2004 to make it easier for Portuguese citizens to be granted residence permits in France. After many attempts to take action, Aurora de Freitas finally turned to SOLVIT. After a time spent lobbying, the French SOLVIT succeeded in finding a section of law (no 94-211, 11/03/2004) that states that EU citizens are not obliged to have a residence permit. The section goes on to state that EU citizens can, however, always apply for a residence permit which, under the law, they are entitled to. The SOLVIT centres in both France and Portugal say that since November 2005, they have enjoyed successful and sustained cooperation with Aurora De Freitas.

How did the nomination process come about?

In the nomination process, SOLVIT centres in all EU Member States and in Norway, Liechtenstein and Iceland were consulted. There are SOLVIT centres in all Member States and they are well informed of the conditions necessary for a well-functioning internal market. The centres also have good insight into the actors operating in the internal market, and this has helped them in their role in the nomination process.

The nomination process for the Single Market Award was open between 24 July and 9 September 2009. The nominations ranged from companies to public bodies, NGOs and universities. The jury comprised two groups that worked independently and compared their results: the European Commission juror group and the Swedish Presidency juror group. The criteria used to evaluate the nominations were problem complexity, originality of the solution and the effect of the solution.

Who were the other nominees?

Besides Mrs de Freitas, the other top contenders nominated were:

EU Coordination Unit , Austrian Federal Economic Chamber (Wirtschaftskammer Österreich) / Enterprise Europe Network

The Austrian Federal Economic Chamber is Austria's largest business community organisation with responsibility for such bodies as the Enterprise Europe Network in Austria. The Chamber has a special unit responsible for EU coordination. The Unit provides information about the internal market and business opportunities in the market, gives concrete guidance to companies that want to benefit from the internal market, and provides feedback to Austrian authorities and European institutions on business-related issues. With all the services it provides, the EU Coordination Unit contributes to the continued development of the internal market as well as its good reputation.

The Slovakian Ministry of Health, Division of Healthcare Education

The Division of Healthcare Education at the Slovakian Ministry of Health is a good example of how national authorities can take on the idea of the EU internal market and help improve the way it functions. The Division has helped many people in the health and medical care sector in getting their professional qualifications recognised simply by finding constructive solutions to eliminating obstacles and thus helping individuals assert their rights.

What is SOLVIT?

SOLVIT is an on-line problem solving network in which EU Member States work together to solve without legal proceedings problems caused by the misapplication of Internal Market law by public authorities. There is a SOLVIT centre in every European Union Member State (as well as in Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein). SOLVIT Centres can help with handling complaints from both citizens and businesses. They are part of the national administration and are committed to providing real solutions to problems within ten weeks. Using SOLVIT is free of charge.

SOLVIT has been working since July 2002. The European Commission coordinates the network, which is operated by the Member States, the European Commission provides the database facilities and, when needed, helps to speed up the resolution of problems. The Commission also passes formal complaints it receives on to SOLVIT if there is a good chance that the problem can be solved without legal action.

SOLVIT

Source: European Commission

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