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The ECF Manifesto... and beyond

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On 17 November, the European Construction Forum (ECF), of which CEMBUREAU is a founding member, launched its Manifesto “Building Prosperity for the Future of Europe” in the European Parliament, in the presence of representatives of the other European Institutions.

In these times of serious challenges that range from the consequences of the economic and financial crisis through to the global issue of climate change, the construction sector stands out as an actor which, given the opportunity, resources and a proper regulatory framework, will be a significant contributor to sustainable prosperity in the European Union.

Through large and many small and medium size enterprises, the EU construction sector generates a value of € 1.2 trillion per year. It accounts for 9.9% of GDP and 51.4% of gross-fixed capital formation. It directly provides jobs to 14.9 million people, i.e., 7.1% of total employment and 29.1% of industrial employment. Of the 3.1 million enterprises active in the construction sector 95% are SMEs with less than 20 workers. In a mature market, as in Europe, 29% of the construction is devoted to the renovation of existing buildings and structures. Those figures speak for themselves!

Through the salaries it pays out and through the wealth it generates, the construction sector can immediately, provided the framework conditions are right, trigger growth and employment thus helping the EU to overcome faster the financial and economic crisis. The multiplier effect of the sector is a precious tool of economic policy for the short-term. In the long term, investment in infrastructure will deliver to the EU an improved efficiency with long-term benefits. To EU citizens, it will provide jobs and places more secure and more pleasant to live in.

The ECF will now undertake to work out with the EU institutions the detail of the incentive measures that are needed: from project bonds to fiscal stimulation through, in particular, VAT rates.

A renewal of the EU infrastructure and of its housing stock is needed to address the immense challenge of climate change. This contribution may take different forms: on the one hand, new and existing buildings can be made more energy efficient thus reducing CO2 emissions; on the other hand, new infrastructure, based on new design, is needed to allow adaptation of agriculture and of physical living conditions to climate change, at the same time as cities have to be made more secure and pleasant to live in.

The beauty of the solutions offered by the construction sector is that all those goals can be attained now, by applying technologies available today, with no need to wait until tomorrow delivers the improvements then made possible by today’s prosperity.

The ECF Manifesto is but a first step – but a significant one – the first stone on a road which the Forum is now undertaking to design. Let us hope it will be a success!