FIEC rallying cry
The need to invest in infrastructure and energy efficiency in buildings is becoming increasingly urgent, according to FIEC (the European Construction Industry Federation), which has launched a Manifesto For Action ahead of the European Union (EU) elections.
In May, the EU will go to the polls to vote for the next term – 2014 to 2019.
Thomas Schleicher, FIEC president, said, "In the EU28, the construction sector represents more than 9% of GDP, nearly €1.2 trillion output, more than 14 million workers and 3 million companies – most of which are SMEs
"All of them stand ready to work together with the partners of the value chain for the future development of the EU."
He said, "The need to invest in infrastructure of all kinds, and energy efficiency of buildings – both existing and new – becomes more evident and urgent by the day."
The FIEC manifesto defines 10 areas for action. These are said to play a key role in establishing an adequate framework for ensuring that the construction sector can be an efficient lever for growth and jobs in all parts of the EU industry, "in a sustainable and future-oriented way".
FIEC said that facilitating investment and promoting financing, ensuring fair competition and a well-functioning labour market, promoting innovation and building a sustainable and energy efficient Europe were some of the areas in which political decisions and consequent action were urgently needed.
Schleicher said, "Our industry would be able to play a decisive role in relaunching EU economic growth and in creating jobs, provided the EU and national governments allocate the required resources to achieve their ambitions and reduce existing barriers, as well as bureaucratic obstacles, which are still hindering the activity of our companies.
"Something has to be done, things have to change. Our politicians have to understand this," he said.
"As the representative of our affiliates across the EU and accepting our responsibilities as the European sectoral social partner, we look forward to collaborating closely with the new MEPs and commissioners, so that our requests can be put into practice, in the interest of millions of enterprises and workers," added Schleicher.
Meanwhile, a new Commission communication on long-term financing of the European economy has been welcomed by FIEC.
Jacques Huillard, vice president in charge of economic and legal affairs at FIEC, said, "We are in a period of scarce public and private financing where any initiative aimed at improving the situation must be welcomed."
He said, "I'm happy, in particular, that this communication maps the way forward for a number of important issues.
Referring to what is included in the manifesto, Huillard said, "Facilitating investment and promoting financing, both in infrastructure and building projects, is the sine qua non condition for ensuring that the construction sector can actually be the efficient lever for growth and jobs in all parts of the EU industry, in a sustainable and future-oriented way.
"Among other things, I can see that the Commission has properly taken into account the risk of a negative impact of prudential rules for banks and insurers on long-term investment – a problem that FIEC has raised from the very beginning of the respective legislative procedures."
The promotion of PPPs (public-private partnerships), when properly implemented for appropriate and well-prepared projects, as well as the successful launch of the Project Bonds, were also cited as "very good news for the future of the EU's most needed infrastructure".
FIEC said these financial instruments should be promoted in a context that clearly favoured investment for growth and jobs.
"However, I am less impressed with the measures for SMEs," said Huillard. "Considering the number of construction companies which crashed during the crisis because of a lack of access to bank lending and late payment from their clients, I doubt that the soft measures proposed by the Commission in this field will actually be able to improve the situation rapidly.
"Some more decisive proposals would have been appreciated."
He warned, "Without adequate financing solutions for the necessary investment, the European economy's future will look grim."