Yesterday, EBC Vice-President Philip van Nieuwenhuizen joined a follow-up call with EU Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton and other construction stakeholders to discuss about the COVID-19 impact on the construction sector. In particular, participants focused on the situation in the construction market, the current and future economic consequences across the value chain, and the needs for policy intervention for the exit and recovery strategies.
EBC Vice-President stressed the fact that the construction sector experiences a decline in private and public demand for new constructions, renovation and maintenance of buildings and infrastructure. This mainly affects SMEs that usually do not have a multi-year planning but heavily rely on short-term demands. Thus, it is crucial to act immediately to limit COVID-19 impact on construction SMEs and relaunch their activity. In particular, Mr. van Nieuwenhuizen put forward the following proposals:
- Encourage Member States to use exceptional fiscal measures in order to support the renovation of existing buildings (e.g. reduced VAT rates on labour intensive services in the construction sector as well as efficient construction materials, eco bonus, etc.)
- Ensure that the sustainable renovation of buildings is included as a current and future conditionality for liquidity to Member States
- Prioritise the “Marshall Plan” for sustainable building renovations and the maintenance of critical infrastructure in the adjustment proposal for the Multi-Annual Financial Framework, including the blending of grants and financial instruments.
- Actively working with the European Investment Bank to reduce financial thresholds, to simplify conditions (e.g. leverage factor, duration) and, especially, to offer financial guarantees for the aggregation of small-scale renovation projects and credit access for young people
- Monitor and map the state of play and functioning of the EU construction supply chain and establish an emergency mechanism for Member States to request support in case of lack of availability of construction products, equipment, etc. (based on the model of the Clearing House for medical equipment)
Commissioner Thierry Breton welcomed these proposals and ensured his commitment to support the construction sector, and its SMEs, to get through the crisis through support initiatives and a continuous dialogue.