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EU uptake of digitised machines still low

The EU’s Internal Market must become truly single and digital if Europe’s construction and agricultural machinery industries are to move forward in the future, a dinner debate organised at the European Parliament by sector associations CECE and CEMA, and the European Forum for Manufacturing (EFM), heard.

Chaired by MEP Jo Leinen, the debate focused on two essential questions – how to close remaining gaps in the Internal Market and how to make it fit-for-purpose in the Digital Age.

Industry speakers broadly welcomed the upcoming European Commission proposal on the completion of the Single Market for off-road machines. The Commission aims to achieve this by creating one single approval system which will authorise mobile machines for road use across the entire EU, without imposing further national technical requirements which are seen as cumbersome.

Richard Markwell, president of the European Agricultural Machinery Association (CEMA), called the initiative as “a cornerstone” of the Single Market and urged the Commission to include the proposal in the annual Work Programme, to table it soon and give enough time to the legislator to deal with it.

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In so doing, he encouraged the Commission to take recourse to existing legislation and harmonised standards.

“Setting-up common safety rules for mobile machines will cut unnecessary costs and administrative burden when placing machines on the EU market,” he said. “This will greatly benefit customers and boost the competitiveness of Europe’s agricultural and construction equipment industries.”

Digital transformation

Looking into the future, the debate focused on the critical importance of a supportive EU policy framework to master the digital transformation in both industries.

The dinner’s organisers felt that while highly advanced digitised machines were already mainstream in both industries, the actual uptake of such technologies was still low in European agriculture and the EU’s construction sector.

At the same time, and with technology evolving fast, both sectors need to master the bigger digital transformation to remain globally competitive.

They said that to do so, a supportive EU policy framework and a business-friendly Digital Single Market would be essential.

As an area of concern mentioned by CECE (Committee for European Construction Equipment) president Bernd Holz was the ePrivacy Regulation, which is currently under review and aims at protecting people’s life and personal data in electronic communication better.


Holz, ”Unintended consequences”

Holz urged MEPs to exclude machine-to-machine (M2M) communication from the proposal, for example what is happening on jobsites between construction machinery for the benefit of efficient operations.

He said a vote at the Justice & Home Affairs committee of the European Parliament due the following day was “just a first step in this key file, but it will give us a clear signal as to the EU’s real willingness to build a Digital Single Market that is truly fit for purpose and business-friendly.”

According to Holz, there is a clear misunderstanding and a series of unintended consequences in the Commission’s proposal, which the Parliament should clarify. He said freedom of contact should be the basis of business-to-business relations, and an extension of the scope was incompatible with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), of which the E-Privacy Regulation is a part.

Further industry speakers also reiterated their calls for the EU Institutions to support the development of digital skills, to improve high-speed broadband infrastructure in Europe, and to use EU tools and programmes to incentivise digital technology investment in agriculture and construction.

The Dinner Debate was the official opening event of the sectorial Summits held by CECE and CEMA on 11 and 12 October in Brussels.

The Summits are bi-annual central networking events for the manufacturers of construction and agricultural equipment in Europe, and EU politicians. They also attract representatives of suppliers, dealers, contractors, rental companies, industry representatives and exhibition partners.


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