The single market according to Enrico Letta - was the report worth the wait?

Publishing date
29 April 2024
Picture of a stack of newspapers
jeromin title

In September, the European Council tasked Enrico Letta, Italy’s former Prime Minister, with preparing an in-depth report on the single market: a concept that both receives much reverence in the EU and remains abstract to many. Now his long-awaited report is out, and we at Bruegel have been reading and discussing it eagerly. If one of Letta’s objectives was to make the single market less 'boring', he has succeeded.

Letta makes a powerful political and economic case for single market deepening and broadening. He explains why the single market is critical to tackle the big problems of our times: boosting investment to finance Europe’s many needs through a “savings and investments union”; lowering the costs of decarbonisation; strengthening Europe’s ability to defend itself; and making it easier for European companies to grow and achieve scale. The single market is critical not just to give Europe’s citizens better choices, but to strengthen Europe in the world.

But Letta’s report does not just reinforce the case for the single market: he also makes many proposals on how to improve it. Critics will tell you that the report lacks analysis, that it does not discuss trade-offs and that it contains little that is really new. They are partly right. But they also miss the point. Letta’s mandate was not to provide a quantitative research based economic treatise – you do not ask a former prime minister to do that. It was to invigorate the debate, set themes and priorities, and make the single market agenda concrete. For the most part, he has done this superbly.

Letta's report pushes many good ideas back into the forefront of the policy debate – whether new or old. It now falls to the rest of us to engage with these ideas, prioritise them and develop the best. We have started to do so: Ben McWilliams, Simone Tagliapietra and Georg Zachmann addressed his messages on energy union; Rebecca Christie, Conor McCaffrey and David Pinkus on Letta’s single market for savers. More Bruegel pieces on specific aspects will follow.

The Why Axis is a weekly newsletter distributed by Bruegel, bringing you the latest research on European economic policy. 

Sign up for the newsletter. 

About the authors

  • Jeromin Zettelmeyer

    Jeromin Zettelmeyer has been Director of Bruegel since September 2022. Born in Madrid in 1964, Jeromin was previously a Deputy Director of the Strategy and Policy Review Department of the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Prior to that, he was Dennis Weatherstone Senior Fellow (2019) and Senior Fellow (2016-19) at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, Director-General for Economic Policy at the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (2014-16); Director of Research and Deputy Chief Economist at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (2008-2014), and an IMF staff member, where he worked in the Research, Western Hemisphere, and European II Departments (1994-2008).

    Jeromin holds a Ph.D. in economics from MIT (1995) and an economics degree from the University of Bonn (1990). He is a Research Fellow in the International Macroeconomics Programme of the Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR), and a member of the CEPR’s Research and Policy Network on European economic architecture, which he helped found. He is also a member of CESIfo. He has published widely on topics including financial crises, sovereign debt, economic growth, transition to market, and Europe’s monetary union. His recent research interests include EMU economic architecture, sovereign debt, debt and climate, and the return of economic nationalism in advanced and emerging market countries.    

Related content