EUROPE – European Union internal market commissioner Frits Bolkestein says improving European competitiveness is critical for the EU’s ability to pay for pensions, health and long-term care.

“Enhancing our competitiveness is critical for Europe if it is to continue to afford our social protection, to pay for pensions, health and long-term care, and to maintain and enhance our high quality of life,” Bolkestein said in a statement. “Every family knows that you have to earn your money before you can spend it.”

He said the removal of internal borders within the EU ten years ago has helped to create 2.5 million extra jobs. He claimed that the internal market has led to a gross domestic product in 2002 that “is 1.8% or 164.5 billion euros higher than it would have been”.

“Over ten years, the internal market has added nearly 900 billion euros to our prosperity. That is 5,700 euros per household on average,” he said.

He said the economic prize of developing the internal market and completing the Financial Services Action Plan – of which the European Commission’s pension directive is a key part - is immense. He foresaw “more prosperity for the citizens of an enlarged Europe”.

“It is an illusion to think that we can become the strongest economy in the world if we can't make our internal market fire on all cylinders. We now know that the recipe has worked and that it will continue working, if we bite the bullet and really make the necessary reforms.”