Construction lobby demands infrastructure spending
FIEC, the European Construction Industry Federation, has launched an offensive to make EU governments open their purses for transport infrastructure investments. FIEC fears that the race to meet EMU criteria will result in reduced public spending, which could slow down investments in European infrastructure. During the annual meeting of FIEC in Copenhagen in June, chairman Ioannis Papaioannou demanded that European politicians commit to higher spending on transport projects, warning that Europe will lose out in the global competition if these investments are not made. "Europe has to act in accordance with what other forces in the world do, and not just look at progress on the European level. If we are to compete internationally, we need a longer time perspective", stressed Papaioannou in Copenhagen. Concretely, FIEC demands more money for Trans-European Networks (TENs) transport infrastructure, the EU's massive master plan for the expansion of motorways, high speed train links, goods railways, airports and waterways. They also want more possibilities for "private corporations investing in roads, bridges and tunnels".
FIEC represents 30 contractors' organizations in 22 countries, involving a total of 1,9 million enterprises and 10 million employees. The FIEC secretariat in Brussels employs a staff of eight, but a large amount of the work is done in numerous 'sub-commissions' consisting of representatives of the national organizations.
According to a new FIEC report on progress in constructing the 14 highest priority TENs projects, 'only' 41 billion ECU has been found to date, out of a total budget of 105 billion ECU. The 14 projects include high speed train links in Benelux, Spain and through the Alps, motorways in the UK, Greece, Spain, Portugal, Greece and Scandinavia, the expansion of the Milan airport, the Oresund bridge between Denmark and Sweden, and rail links in Scandinavia, Ireland, the UK and the Netherlands.
Environmental NGOs predict that the more than 150 planned TENs projects will cause severe environmental damage all over Europe, as well as a significant increase in CO2 emissions from transport.
FIEC and TENs
FIEC has lobbied for faster implementation of TENs for several years. It uses the media, publishes reports and studies, sends messages to the EU Summits and occasionally meets with transport commissioner Neil Kinnock to present its point of view. Before the Cannes EU Summit in June 1995, FIEC expressed the disappointment "of the European industrialists in the construction sector" with the slow progress of TENs implementation. The group proposed slogans like "One Europe, a Single Territory" to raise public opinion around the importance of "European infrastructure, as though it were an integral part of our European heritage".
Practical proposals to speed up TENs included giving the EU more authority in infrastructure development, developing the role of private finance, and expanding user payment. In a message to the EU Summit in Madrid in December 1995, FIEC demanded subsidies through European funds and budget lines to be re-allocated in favour of TENs, for instance by moving money from the agricultural budgets. When EU Finance Ministers instead proposed that the anticipated savings from the agricultural budgets be returned to the Member States to reduce fiscal deficits, FIEC in its disappointment launched a rather unsubtle message to the EU Summit in Turin in March 1996. According to FIEC "the common root cause of national deficits and the current high levels of unemployment in some member states is broadly acknowledged, namely the excessively high levels of spending on social benefits and the corresponding taxation and social security levies on employment". FIEC did not hesitate to make an appeal on behalf of "those people who need most help, namely the unemployed who will yet again be denied the opportunity to work on the construction of the Trans European Networks".
FIEC clearly lacks the subtlety of ECIS (the European Centre for Infrastructure Studies), which succeeded in presenting its largely identical demands in a seemingly scientific and neutral style. Whereas ECIS has seen a number of its proposals become EU policy (such as public/private partnerships, single agent for cross border projects, etc.), FIEC has not played an agenda-setting role but has instead steamrolled along with the rather predictable message that construction industry wants infrastructure projects and they want them now.
Construction industry united for TENs
Another recent step taken to intensify the lobby for faster construction of the many TENs projects is the foundation of the European Construction Forum. The new coalition, which was "warmly welcomed by Commissioner Kinnock", consists of FIEC (contractors) and includes ACE (architects), EFCA (consulting engineers), UEPC (developers and house builders), CEPM, CEMBUREAU and EAPA (construction material producers) and FETBB (construction workers). The aim of the new platform is "a systematic exchange of experiences, as well as a more powerful and coordinated approach".
Federation de l'Industrie Europeenne de la Construction
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