Hungary takes over rotating EU presidency

On 1 July, Hungary took over the presidency of the Council of the European Union. The rotating presidency will last for 6 months. The priorities and key objectives of the Hungarian presidency are outlined in its presidency programme.These include:

The Hungarian Presidency’s New European Competitiveness Deal focuses on revitalizing the EU economy by addressing recent economic challenges, enhancing productivity and supporting SMEs. It promotes the green and digital transitions, fosters international cooperation, and ensures stable employment.

To reduce regional disparities, the Presidency seeks balanced growth across the EU by debating cohesion policy’s future role in competitiveness and employment. It prioritizes implementing reformed economic governance, emphasising productivity, and accelerating the Recovery and Resilience Facility.

Additionally, the Presidency aims for a transparent EU budget, tackles labor and skills shortages, and improves employment conditions. It supports aligning training programs with job market needs, enhancing occupational health and safety, and promoting the circular economy while maintaining SME competitiveness and advancing the EU’s leadership in green technologies.


New EU top jobs and agenda: What’s next?

The upcoming weeks will disclose the EU’s strategic direction and key priorities of the European Union: from security and green roadmaps to foreign policy.Last week’s European Council meetings and decisions marked a new step towards understanding what the world can expect from the bloc’s leaders for the next 5 years. New top positions and agenda leave room for continued climate ambition, but political risks still lie ahead.

The European Union’s leaders opted for Ursula von der Leyen, António Costa and Kaja Kallas for the so called ‘Union’s top jobs’.Among the urgent tasks awaiting Ursula von der Leyen, once confirmed as President of the EU Commission by the European Parliament, is to build on her own legacy: the European Green Deal.  A new Green Industrial Plan is also a key priority that has been anticipated as ‘high’ on the agenda and to be addressed within the first 100 days of her mandate.

António Costa will navigate divergent views among European governments on the EU’s budget and the Capital Markets Union while safeguarding the system from the security and sustainability risks associated with investment gaps. The President of the European Council will also need to drive discussions among leaders to uphold their international commitments. This is crucial to pressure other emitters into the ambitious climate goals at COP30.

Following his nominee for High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, the Estonian leader, Kaja Kallas, will be soon busy to redefine the EU’s place in a world of growing international instability and global fragmentation. Under a potentially revised geopolitical analysis, she is expected to work on a vision of EU cooperation with emerging economies in their clean transition and boost the impact and global influence of the EU’s External Action Service. António Costa’s strong connections to emerging economies such as India and Brazil give the EU a good starting position to reinforce crucial EU partnerships.

While climate action features less prominently compared to 2019, the new Strategic Agenda commits to a just and fair climate transition towards climate neutrality, accelerating the energy transition, including through ambitious electrification, and increasing energy sovereignty. Leaders have also committed to providing a stable and predictable framework and to “protect nature and reverse the degradation of ecosystems, including oceans”, despite the weaknesses and shortcomings witnessed during the attempt of introducing a more explicit endorsement of the European Green Deal. Successful delivery of a just and fair climate transition will require increased societal resilience against climate risks, a stronger EU social model, new investment, and renewed international engagement.

The next key date for the EU is 18 July: von der Leyen will take her first go to obtain an absolute majority of Members of the European Parliament in a secret vote.



REACH: FIEC warns against reclassification of recycled aggregates

FIEC is currently investigating whether recycled aggregates should be considered as articles under the REACH chemicals regulation.The current classification as an “article” exempts recycled aggregates from REACH registration. A change of classification to “substance”, as proposed by ECHA (European Chemicals Agency) in 2023 in its document “Recovered aggregates: aggregates from construction and demolition waste“, would primarily affect those recycled aggregates for which end-of-waste (EoW) criteria have already been established. EoW criteria play an important role in increasing the acceptance and value of recycled aggregates.

Producers in countries where EoW criteria have been introduced would be treated unequaly. If a reclassification of recycled aggregates were to require registration under REACH, the associated administrative burden for producers would be immense, with possible consequences for contractors and the circular economy.

ECHA’s decision is questionable in terms of its compatibility with the EU’s circular economy ambitions: Recycled aggregates (part of “recovered aggregates” in ECHA documents) constitute the largest volume of recycled materials in Europe. They are safe and soundly used for instance in road construction. In many Member States use is subjected to environmental testing.

When recycled aggregates cease to be waste, they are automatically subject to REACH. Recycled aggregates however are articles and therefore exempted from the obligation of registration.



EU opens accession negotiations with Ukraine

On 25 June, the EU held the first Ministerial Intergovernmental Conference to open accession negotiations with Ukraine. This followed the European Council’s decision (last December) to formally open accession talks.The conference was attended by officials from the EU, Belgium (which holds the current EU Presidency) and Ukraine.

The EU reiterated its willingness to continue to support Ukraine during the war. It also underlined that Ukraine is a close partner of the Union, exemplified by the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area that entered into force in 2017 and Ukraine’s efforts to align with the EU’s Common Foreign and Security Policy.

The EU has asked the European Commission to continue assessing Ukraine’s readiness to open negotiations in specific areas, and to identify the issues that are most likely to be addressed in the negotiations, starting with the basic cluster which, according to the Negotiating Framework, will be opened first.



5th Anniversary of the European Labour Authority


On 27 June, the European Labour Authority (ELA) held its Annual Conference in Brussels to celebrate its 5th anniversary and the 30th anniversary of EURES (EURopean Employment Services).

Following the opening remarks and keynote speeches delivered by Cosmin Boiangiu (ELA Executive Director), Nicolas Schmit (EU Commissioner for Jobs and Social Rights), Tom Bevers (EU Belgian Presidency) and Jeroen Leaners (Member of the European Parliament), participants were invited to consider the long negotiations that led to the establishment of the Authority. They all praised the work of ELA and its achievements reached over the last 5 years. The Conference also provided an opportunity to discuss how data and digitalisation can be used by labour authorities for a better enforcement.

Finally, representatives of EU Social Partners and of the European institutions shared their views on the future of ELA in the light of the upcoming evaluation of the Authority.


FIEC’s position on the “Letta Report on the future of the Single Market”

On 27 June, FIEC published its Position Paper on Enrico Letta’s Report on the Future of the Single Market.
The Report touches on many issues of importance to the construction industry. It rightly recognises that a circular economy model is pivotal for the EU’s sustainability and economic resilience and that the EU Public Procurement market plays a critical role in economic activity.

FIEC welcomes several suggestions made in the report, such as increasing SMEs participation in public tenders, enhancing labour mobility or creating an EU Task Force on Housing Affordability.However, FIEC expressed some reservations about some of the proposals made, such as aligning procurement with “strategic” objectives. It also raises issues that are either not addressed in the report or not addressed in sufficient detail. One such example is infrastructure maintenance.



FIEC Video of the Month:
Feedback on FIEC-EIC Conference “Building the Change” – 17 May 2024

Following the sucessfull FIEC-EIC joint conference “Building the Change: How can Construction lead the way to 2050?“, we asked a few speakers and participants to share a brief feedback on the positive outcome of the event and on the key priorities and upcoming challenges that matter for the construction industry.

In this video, you can watch some short statements released by the following participants:

(hereunder listed in order of appearance)

Nina Kreutzman – European Federation of Building and Woodworkers (EFBWW)

Philippe Moseley – European Commission (DG GROW)

Piero Petrucco – FIEC President, CEO at I.CO.P. S.p.A. Società Benefit (ICOP)

Philip Crampton – Former FIEC President

Maria-Angeles Asenjo – FIEC Vice-President, Confederación Nacional de la Construcción (CNC)

This video is also posted on FIEC Social Media and Website (under the VIDEO section).