Commissioner Bulc talks investment in transport at regional conference in Sofia
On Thursday 23rd March, representatives of the Bulgarian Construction Chamber (BCC) attended a European conference on transport infrastructure in Sofia. At this occasion, representatives of the European Comission, the European Parliament and the European Investment Bank presented various possibilities for investing in the transport sector.
The main message of Commissioner for Transport Violeta Bulc was that EU’s financial grants will be focused only on projects for which other financial sources cannot be found, but which are important for the development of European Union. Member States who count on the current financial model of European subsidies have to develop capacity and to be ready to work with innovative financial instruments.
The Commissioner added that there is not enough public financing and simply combining it with private investment can help filling the investment gap for infrastructure, particularly for the Member States eligible for Cohesion Fund money. In particular, she promoted the benefits of combining the European Strategic Investment Fund (EFSI) with public funding.
The Chairperson of the EP Committee on Regional Development, Iskra Mihaylova, mentioned that for the period 2014-2020, EUR 70 billion had been provided for projects in the transport sector within the European Union.
Joint Employment Report 2017: Main findings from key employment and social indicators
The EPSCO Council adopted the 2017 Joint Employment Report (JER), including the Scoreboard of key employment and social indicators. The JER takes a snapshot of the employment and social situation across the EU and highlights the extent of reforms carried out in the Member States over the previous year. The Scoreboard allows for the early detection of key employment and social problems and for the assessment of convergence or divergence patterns across countries. Since 2016, their situation is analysed through a methodology agreed by the Member States, which classifies them in seven groups, from “best performers” to “critical situations”.
Construction 2020 discussion on digitalisation
FIEC presented some of the challenges that lie ahead for the construction industry, both technical and practical, as the European Commission is considering with Construction 2020 stakeholders how best to support the uptake of digitalisation in the industry. Wilfred van Woudenberg from Royal BAM Group spoke on behalf of FIEC, highlighting some key issues, such as the cost of initial investment in BIM, the lack of knowledge and the fear factor and some more technical issues such as the lack of interoperability and open platforms. A presentation on 3D printing, by the General Manager of a small French enterprise, showed what is possible if companies can be allowed to experiment and develop and roll-out new processes, which will solve many productivity problems, creating new job opportunities, albeit for different kinds of skills, which are likely to attract young people into the industry. It was acknowledged that any regulatory framework which constrains innovation too much, could result in the opportunities being lost to less regulated countries outside of Europe. On the other hand, the inevitable trade-offs that will face the industry and policy makers need to be addressed now, so that solutions can be found.