On 19 November 2014 the European Builders Confederation (EBC) organised a business breakfast in the European Parliament to present the new MEPs with its priorities for the next five years. These consist of concrete measures on how to contribute to sustainable economic growth in Europe and overcome the crisis in the construction sector.
Around the chairmanship of SME Circle president, MEP Markus PIEPER, more than ten MEPs, representatives from the European Commission and other EU trade associations participated in the breakfast and contributed to the debate.
Small and medium-sized construction businesses believe there is much at stake in the current European legislative term. Five years of economic slowdown harshly damaged small builders, but the housing sector has big potential for the European economy. The European construction sector makes up around 10% of the GDP of the European Union and employs roughly 13 million workers. Small and medium-sized businesses produce 80% of the construction industry’s output, create local jobs and have huge potential to absorb youth unemployment.
MEP Markus Pieper highlighted that the SME Circle and the European People Party are committed to supporting SME policy, which produces tangible results for entrepreneurs. They will combine their efforts with those of Frans Timmermans for better regulation and enhanced application of the subsidiarity principle. SMEs need simplification first!
The then Vice-President of EBC Patrick Liébus pointed out that Juncker’s 300 billion investment plan is a positive initiative but it won’t work without public investment. He underlined that construction entrepreneurs need an SME-friendly business environment, which really “thinks small first”.
They need a proper way to access finance and cover risk guarantees, relevant fiscal measures such as reduced VAT rates, and financial support for housing renovation. They need common rules at the European level and instruments to reduce unfair competition arising from social dumping and undeclared work.
Moreover, entrepreneurship education should be integrated in the vocational education and training curricula to facilitate business transfers and youth employment. Last but not least, the Council and the European Parliament should engage in carrying out an “SME test” during the legislative process and check whether European legislation is appropriate for SMEs.
These are some of the provisions EBC would like to see put in place by the European Parliament over the next 5 years in its contribution to making Europe an SME-friendly business environment.