The European Union is the world's leading example of regional economic integration. Whilst integration of European securities markets has been on the policy agenda since the 1970s, this aspect of the market integration project acquired a new intensity after the European Commission's announcement in 1999 of an ambitious five-year Action Plan of policy objectives and specific measures to improve the single market for financial services. The Commission's Financial Services Action Plan has largely been adopted within its original timeframe, which is a remarkable achievement. However, many fascinating questions still remain and in this book I explore some of them.
Regulation, in its narrow rule-making sense, was the favoured policy tool employed in the Financial Services Action Plan. The new laws move significantly beyond early interventions, which concentrated on removing national barriers to cross-border activity by issuers, investors and intermediaries, and put in place increasingly detailed, standardised EU-wide re-regulation in the interests of market efficiency and investor protection. There is room for disagreement on whether the details are right in every respect. Certainly the close examination of the new regime for issuer disclosure contained in this book identifies a number of areas where the rules could be counterproductive in their practical operation. More fundamentally, it is open to question whether the emphasis on regulation in the Financial Services Action Plan was the right strategic approach.