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#EHHA: European Holiday Home Association submits official complaint to European Commission on rules 'stifling short-term rental sector'

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ehha_carlos-1Some of the most popular city destinations in Europe are stifling the ability of householders to rent out accommodation to travellers by imposing excessive and often contradictory regulations, according to a complaint submitted to the European Commission by the short-term rental industry. 

Examples of the restrictions range from outright bans, to effective bans via disproportionate requirements about the number of coat hangers in wardrobes, the quantity of cups and towels in bathrooms and the brightness of lightbulbs.

The complaint, lodged by industry body the European Holiday Home Association (EHHA), representing both property owners, renters and managers as well as short-term rental platforms, targets popular destinations including Berlin, Barcelona, Brussels and Paris for some of the most over-zealous rules and restrictions/bans which are not consistent with EU law. However, many other European destinations are also placing a disproportionate burden on people who simply want to rent out their accommodation.

The official complaint follows several months of informal dialogue with the European Commission.  The EHHA warns that Europe’s city authorities risk suffocating the short-term rental sector as well as imposing excessive legal liabilities on the platforms that connect hosts and renters. “The industry is the first to welcome sensible regulation for the short-term rental sector and collaborative economy,” said EHHA Secretary General Carlos Villaro Lassen (pictured). “However, in Europe the collaborative economy risks being crushed by a hotchpotch of excessive and contradictory regulation. While some of these rules may be well-intentioned and appropriate for large hotels, they are completely disproportionate for individuals who are simply renting out their accommodation for a few days. 

“The restrictions infringe the EU’s fundamental freedom to provide services across Europe and that is why we have decided to act and submit this complaint,” he added. 

In Barcelona, regulators have extended tourism regulations – originally designed to govern professional activity – and applied them directly to the collaborative economy without modification. Homeowners wishing to rent their property (they are prohibited from letting a single room) must comply with a long list of technical and quality requirements. Even minor infringements, such as failing to provide consumer complaint forms, can result in fines of up to €3,000. Serious infringements can lead to fines of up to €600,000. 

While in Barcelona permit-holders are limited to letting entire properties only, the reverse is true in Berlin. Berliners wishing to rent out more than 50% of their apartment must obtain special authorisation, which will only be granted if they can prove they have no other way to make ends meet, or in very special and almost impossible circumstances.

Non-compliance can result in a fine of up to €100,000.  In Brussels, private individuals with accommodation to rent face a colossal administrative process – exactly the same as if they were running a high-priced large business hotel. Requirements include providing a wardrobe with at least two hangers per guest; room lighting set at 100 lux; an electric sink light of 200 lux in the bathroom; and a cup or glass per guest and a guest towel. Fines for non-compliance range between €250 - €25,000. 

In Paris, owners wishing to rent a ‘pied-à-terre’ are required to make a ‘compensation’ to the city, an expensive and burdensome process which may include converting up to twice the area of commercial real estate into residential property of equivalent quality as the one being rented – in effect a ban on letting secondary residences.  Online platforms that market short-term rentals also face a host of excessive and contradictory regulations, coupled with heavy liabilities for non-compliance.

This is contrary to the EU’s E-Commerce Directive.  The short-term rental sector provides travellers with more choice, competitive prices and the chance of experiencing places in new and exciting ways. It also brings significant benefits to owners and tenants, including managing their costs of living and unleashing entrepreneurship. Local communities also benefit from increased tourism and consumer spend, driving growth, investment and employment. 

According to a Phocuswright study1, 45 million adult Europeans have stayed in short-term rental accommodation in the past two years and the industry in Europe produces an annual turnover of 80 billion euros. In Europe, private homeowners, rental managers, portals and listing sites provide a capacity of 20 million beds for tourists – twice the number of traditional hotel beds. The short-term rental sector is a key component of the Commission’s Digital Single Market project.

The restrictive municipal rules however affect the competitiveness of European tourism destinations and in particular their ability to attract new travellers that are looking for short-term rentals.  According to the European Commission’s guidance on the collaborative economy published last June: “rules applied to the collaborative economy need to be justified and proportionate and should aim to relieve operators from unnecessary regulatory burden.”

The guidance also points out that “a fragmented approach to the collaborative economy creates uncertainty for traditional operators, new services providers and consumers alike and may hamper innovation, job creation and growth”.  The EHHA complaint requests that the European Commission starts so-called EU Pilot discussions with relevant member states (Germany, Spain, Belgium and France) to bring the identified problematic local short-term rental regulations into line with EU law as a matter of urgency.

The EHHA complaint also underlines that some member states have failed to notify the European Commission of the excessive regulations imposed by municipal authorities, as they are obliged to do under EU law. Following this complaint, the EHHA will closely monitor future laws regulating the collaborative economy which include disproportional rules.  Villaro Lassen concludes: “The EU must intervene to put an end to the unnecessary patchwork of restrictive and contradictory municipal rules and red-tape. These only serve to strangle a vibrant part of the EU economy. The existing regulations hurt consumers, homeowners and renters and the wider tourism sector. They are also contrary to EU law and the Commission’s goal of creating a Digital Single Market.” 

The European Holiday Home Association

The European Holiday Home Association (EHHA) was founded in 2013 to give a voice to the short-term rental industry. The EHHA’s members range from associations representing private house owners to managers’ associations and digital platforms. Its members operate across the European Union countries. The core of the association is the distribution of short-term rentals in private houses and apartments.

Sharing Economy 

The Collaborative Economy (or Sharing Economy) refers to systems that enable access to goods, services, data and talent, without the need for ownership. These systems take a variety of forms but all leverage information technology and peer-to-peer communities. Last year the European Commission launched a public consultation on the Collaborative Economy which looked at the economic role of online platforms (search engines, social media, video sharing website, app stores, etc). The EU sees a clear potential in the Collaborative Economy in terms of innovation, growth and jobs.

EU

7th EU-Kazakhstan High-Level Business Platform focused on transition to low-carbon and green technologies

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The EU-Kazakhstan High-Level Platform of dialogue on economic and business matters (Business Platform) held its 7th meeting in Nur-Sultan on 11 June, chaired by Prime Minister Askar Mamin.

The event brought together representatives of business and EU Heads of Mission led by the Ambassador of the EU to the Republic of Kazakhstan, Sven-Olov Carlsson. Visiting EU Special Representative for Central Asia Ambassador Peter Burian joined the event.

The High-level Business Platform complements the technical dialogue between the EU and Kazakhstan within the Enhanced Partnership and Cooperation Agreement, in particular the Cooperation Committee in Trade Configuration, which took place in October 2020.  

The EU has committed to climate neutrality by 2050 and is fully translating the implementation of the Paris Agreement into legislation. Ambitious targets and decisive actions demonstrate that EU is and will remain to be a global leader in the transition to green economy. The climate challenge is inherently global, the EU is only responsibly for approximately 10% of all global Greenhouse Gas emissions. The EU expects from its partners to share a comparable level of ambition to fight climate change and is ready to deepen co-operation with Kazakhstan in this area, including exploring new opportunities for trade and investment.

The recent EU-Kazakhstan Cooperation Council welcomed the progress made in the framework of the Business Platform chaired by the Prime Minister Mamin. The Platform acknowledges the importance of the EU in Kazakhstan's external trade, and discussions on a range of issues contribute to attract more investment in Kazakhstan.

Background Information

The EU-Kazakhstan Enhanced Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (EPCA), fully in force from 1 March 2020, aims at creating a better regulatory environment for businesses in areas such as trade in services, establishment and operation of companies, capital movements, raw materials and energy, intellectual property rights. It is a tool of regulatory convergence between Kazakhstan and the EU, with some “WTO plus” provisions, notably on public procurement. Even in a year as difficult as 2020, the EU has consolidated its position as Kazakhstan’s first trade partner and first foreign investor, and Kazakhstan remains the main trade partner of the EU in Central Asia. Total EU-Kazakhstan trade reached €18.6 billion in 2020, with EU imports worth €12.6bn and EU exports €5.9bn. The EU is by far Kazakhstan's first trading partner overall, representing 41% of total Kazakh exports.

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Belgium

Iranian Opposition rally in front of US embassy in Brussels to ask US and EU for a firm policy towards Iranian regime

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Following the G7 summit in London, Brussels hosts the NATO summit with US and EU leaders. It is the first trip of President Joe Biden outside the US. Meanwhile, the Iran deal negotiations have started in Vienna and despite the international efforts to return Iran and the US to compliance with the JCPOA, Iranians regime showed no interest to return to its commitments under JCPOA context. In the recent IAEA report, important concerns have been raised that the Iranian regime failed to address.

The Iranian diaspora, supporters of the National Council of Resistance of Iran in Belgium, held a rally today (14 June) in front of the US embassy in Belgium. They held posters and banners with the picture of Maryam Rajavi, the leader of the Iranian opposition movement who has declared a non-nuclear Iran in her 10-point plan for the free and democratic Iran.

In their posters and slogans, Iranians asked the US and the EU to work harder to hold the mullahs’ regime accountable for its human rights violations too. The protesters emphasized the need for a decisive policy by the US and the European countries to harness the mullahs’ quest for a nuclear bomb, stepped up repression at home, and terrorist activities abroad.

According to the new IAEA report, despite the previous agreement, the clerical regime refuses to answer IAEA questions on four disputed sites and (to kill time) has postponed further talks until after its presidential election. According to the report, the regime's enriched uranium reserves have reached 16 times the limit allowed in the nuclear deal. The production of 2.4 kg of 60% enriched uranium and about 62.8kg of 20% enriched uranium are of grave concern.

IAEA Director-General Rafael Grossi said: Despite agreed terms, “After many months, Iran has not provided the necessary explanation for the presence of the nuclear material particles…We are facing a country that has an advanced and ambitious nuclear program and is enriching Uranium very close to weapons-grade level.”

Grossi’s remarks, also reported by Reuters today, reiterated: “The lack of clarification of the agency’s questions regarding the accuracy and integrity of Iran’s Safeguard Declaration will seriously affect the agency’s ability to ensure the peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear program.”

Maryam Rajavi (pictured), the President-elect of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), said that the recent report of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the remarks by its Director-General once again show that to guarantee its survival, the clerical regime has not abandoned its atomic bomb project. It also shows that to buy time, the regime has continued its policy of secrecy to mislead the international community. At the same time, the regime is blackmailing its foreign interlocutors into lifting sanctions and ignoring its missile programs, export of terrorism, and criminal meddling in the region.

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Brexit

Ex-EU Brexit negotiator Barnier: UK reputation at stake in Brexit row

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Head of the Task Force for Relations with the UK, Michel Barnier attendsthe debate on EU-UK trade and cooperation agreement during the second day of a plenary session at the European Parliament in Brussels, Belgium April 27, 2021. Olivier Hoslet/Pool via REUTERS

Michel Barnier, the European Union's former Brexit negotiator, said on Monday (14 June) that the reputation of the United Kingdom was at stake regarding tensions over Brexit.

EU politicians have accused British Prime Minister Boris Johnson of not respecting engagements made regarding Brexit. Growing tensions between Britain and the EU threatened to overshadow the Group of Seven summit on Sunday, with London accusing France of "offensive" remarks that Northern Ireland was not part of the UK. Read more

"The United Kingdom needs to pay attention to its reputation," Barnier told France Info radio. "I want Mr Johnson to respect his signature," he added.

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