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Dinner without EU - Free movement of goods

Updated: May 24, 2019

Articles 28-37 and 110 of the TFEU of course, I know everything about that... It's the one about pointy carrots right?

Wrong, to some extent.

These articles govern the principle of the free movement of goods. So if you like some French cheese, Italian wine, German sausage or some Czech Pilsner - all these products on your shelf have benefited from the free movement of goods. Rather than potentially paying a lot more for each item, these foods don't have additional charges from trade.

Let’s have a closer look at our beloved cheese: It is produced in France and then distributed across the EU to be sold, for example in a Polish supermarket. To arrive there, it has to cross Germany. The free movement rules ensure that as the cheese’s travel, no additional import or export charges or quality requirements are imposed. So, the cheese can travel freely to the Polish supermarket, where we can finally buy it. And the same rules apply to all kind of products, including cosmetics, electronic goods, or cars. They can circulate freely within the EU’s internal market across national borders.

For us, this means that the variety of products available to us every day increases, which is facilitated by the EU rules in place. These rules ensure that products can move easily, quickly and according to a set of common safety requirements. These advantages are visible and can be measured in the volume of trade between the EU Member States: Official statistics show that the exchange of goods amounted to almost EUR 300 000 million a month in 2018, compared to EUR 200 000 million per month in 2006.[1] The increased trade volume indicates that the economies of the EU Member States are more and more connected, which benefits us as consumers, as the variety of products that we consume every day is hugely facilitated by the EU free movement rules.

Without such rules in place, the shelves in the supermarket would of course not be completely empty, however, the range of affordable products available would most likely decrease. Then, the French cheese travelling to Poland might be charged a levy when crossing the border and possibly even be stuck in customs for several days – which would make it very expensive and could negatively affect the freshness of the products traded across EU Member States.

Members of the single market that guarantees free movement of goods. Notice that Norway, Switzerland and Iceland are both members of the single market but not members of the EU

In the end, the free movement is not about abstract rules or the increase in trade volume. It is about the facilitation of the trade in products, which is an inherent part of our everyday life. It ensures that we can buy our beloved French cheese and drink good Czech beer, without being charged more simply because the product comes from a Member State different to our home Member State. Therefore, the free movement of goods is important to our daily routines and to our quality of life. And the rules on free circulation of goods are only one of the four corner stones of the EU’s internal market. The other three are the free movement of workers, of services and establishment as well as the of capital. Combined, these freedoms form the internal market which ensures that nationality or the origin of a product is not the determining factor within the EU. Instead, these rules offer opportunities and possibilities that have a direct or indirect effect on our life.

[1] Based on data provided by Eurostat, the statistical office of the EU, if you are interested, the information can be accessed here: (consulted 23.04.2019).

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