A Short Summary of EUs Four Freedoms

A Short Summary of EUs Four Freedoms
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  • Roar Bjonnes is the co-founder of Systems Change Alliance, a long-time environmental activist and a writer on ecology and alternative economics, which he terms eco-economics.

Free Movement of Goods

Article 30 of the Maastricht Treaty prohibits EU member states from imposing customs duties and any other charges having the same effect as customs duties on any goods moving between countries. In addition, article 110 prohibits member countries to impose any other type of taxes on imported goods that are different from the taxation of domestic goods.

Europe Continent

Article 34 prohibits non-tariff restrictions on imports such as import quotas. Finally, any rule that directly or indirectly discriminates against imported products to the favour of domestic products by making it more cumbersome, costly, or time consuming to market the imported product is prohibited under Union Law.

This freedom makes it difficult for a country to protect or subsidize local industry until it becomes competitive, the method all industrialised countries used in the past to develop local industries. After the introduction of the free movement of goods, Greece and Portugal were forced to compete on equal terms with technological and industrial powerhouses such as Germany and France.

Member states may restrict the free movement of goods only under certain special circumstances, such as when there are risks associated with public health, the environment, or for consumer protection.

Free Movement of Capital

European Union

Capital within the EU can be moved between member countries in any quantities at the same cost as transfers within a single country. In addition, any EU Citizen or corporation is allowed to buy any type of property in any part of the Union.

It is interesting to note that this “freedom” has suddenly been suspended for Cyprus, even though Cyprus is a member of the Euro Zone. In order to prevent capital flight following the crash of the banking sector, movement of capital out of the country has now been severely restricted.

Hence, the European economy is not a completely free market, indeed no market, in spite the economic rhetoric by neo-liberal economists, has ever been free, it is always regulated by government policies.

While the US economy is considered one of the world’s most deregulated economies, the European mixed economy of soft deregulation and state control is considered a less aggressive form of capitalism. Nevertheless, due to increased deregulation through the Four Freedom agenda, a rise in speculative wealth and corporate power, the European economy resembles the US economy more and more every year.  

Free Movement of People

A Union of Coal and Steel

Within the EU, anyone can move to a different country and work, settle and retire, and their professional qualifications in one country will be recognised in any of the other member countries. Due to language and cultural barriers, the actual mobility of people has been fairly limited.

Even in depressed areas in Greece and Portugal, there has not been a mass exodus to Germany, Denmark or other more prosperous countries in search of jobs. However, there has been an increased flow of people, mostly single men and women who send part of their wages back to support their families, from Eastern European countries, such as Romania and Poland into Scandinavia and other countries.

This economic migration of people from less developed EU countries to richer countries, coupled with an increase in immigration from Middle Eastern, Asian and African countries has created a backlash of protests from primarily right-wing groups, thus fuelling strong anti-EU sentiments.

These protests, however, are often scapegoating the underlying economic issue: free trade between unequal economies creates a migratory flow from poor to rich areas, and when that migration is across barriers of country, culture and language, then complications arise, including increased crime, black market economies, economic dependency, as well as the breaking up of families.

We believe that when there are stable, national, regional and local economies, then people generally will not want to leave their homes—illegal immigration will therefore not be a problem. But if people do want to move to another country, they should be able to do so out of their own free will. 

Free Movement of Services

Free Movement of Services

The free movement of services are established in Article 56 and 57 of the Maastricht Treaty. Services are defined as anything provided for remuneration that does not fall under goods, capital or persons.

In other words, a cleaning service company in Denmark can, under this law, set up shop in any of the EU countries and compete on the same level as a local company. APCOA Parking AG is Europe’s largest parking service company with more than 4500 employees.

The company’s Scandinavian division is AuroPark, which monitors parking lots outside shopping centers and businesses in Sweden, Denmark and Norway. Even in areas where there is “free parking,” if drivers stay past the allotted time, they have to pay hefty fines of over $100.  Such a system is detrimental to the local economy and needs to be changed to a system in which local businesses are, by law, favoured over international ones.


  • Roar Bjonnes is the co-founder of Systems Change Alliance, a long-time environmental activist and a writer on ecology and alternative economics, which he terms eco-economics.

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