The European construction industry is still a world leader despite the crisis

CECE presents a 10-point manifesto to the European Parliament to support the sector: the aim is to get the continental market going again

The crisis in the construction market, and the consequent negative effects on the related machinery industry, seems only to affect Europe. This is one of the most significant aspects to emerge from the CECE annual general meeting held recently in Brussels (which also saw the election of Giampiero Biglia of Unacea as Vice-President of the association) which among other things analyzed the world market in detail. While in 2013, the economy saw growth in every area of the world (3.3% on average, ranging from +1.6% in Japan to +7.1% in Asia) and Europe remained stuck at zero, the construction market worldwide saw growth higher than the increase of GDP (by 4.5% on average) except in Europe, where there was a setback of 2.5% compared to the previous year.

It should be mentioned that this market in Europe, according to estimates by various analysts, is worth 1800 billion dollars, approximately 24% of total world figure of 7500 billions. It is pointless to try and draw optimistic or pessimistic conclusions from these figures. A rational approach to the situation should prevail. Companies must undoubtedly look to the global market and cannot expect a change of direction on the European market until at least 2015. Moreover, European policies still focus on austerity and not on growth and inasmuch the financial crisis in the euro-zone has not yet truly settled. In Europe, the value of the machinery market has fallen back to levels seen in the 1990s: the upturn in 2010 and 2011 seems to have petered out, banks struggle to grant credit and the age of a great deal of machinery is still low.

Prospects in the old continent seem to depend more on growth in Eastern European countries and Russia than the five historic continental markets (Italy, Spain, France, Germany and Great Britain) and European companies will have to come to grips with the progressive emergence of new competitors not only in Asia but also in Turkey and Russia. The importance of the European construction machinery industry and its role on the market, however, is still very evident. If import and export data for 2012 are analysed, the balance of trade was positive in relation to every non-European market: the European industry exported plant last year to North America worth about 3.2 billion euros, compared to imports of 1.2 billions; similarly exports to South America came to 1.6 billions against imports totalling 128 millions, and 2.4 billions to Africa against just 46 millions for imports. Yet what is even more important most is that even as regards Asia in general, and China in particular, the balance of trade was positive: exports came to 3.9 billions against imports totalling about 3 billions. In short, not everything is negative and companies must now realise that the geography of the market has changed on a planetary scale and will never return to the pre-crisis situation. 

Consequently, in order to tackle these changes, European industry must be able to rely on the support of Community institutions. For this reason, CECE presented – at the end of its AGM, the "CECE-CEMA Action Manifesto" containing ten requests for the European Parliament: they include better international alignment to avoid trade barriers, reduction of administrative overheads in order to comply with European legislation, the completion of the internal market, fair competition through better market surveillance and  boosting investments in infrastructures.