• EC needs to hear hotels

The new European Commission has been widely viewed as a victory for the Franco-German axis within Europe, fuelling expectations of a leftwards shift away from pro-market forces.

But rather than worrying about the fate of the City of London (it is a fight President Sarkozy stands little hope of winning) the concern for the hotel sector should be ensuring it can make itself heard.

The big economic challenge for the European Union is jobs, and in particular youth jobs. Tourism, according to the EC's own figures, contributes indirectly to 11% of Europe's GDP and accounts for 12% of jobs.

In addition, tourism offers twice as many jobs to young people as other sectors and the pace of job creation in tourism "has been significantly higher than in the rest of the economy", says the Commission.

Agriculture will provide no new jobs and yet it continues to absorb just fractionally under half of the EU's budget. The Agriculture and Rural Development portfolio is lumped together under one commissioner, Davian Ciolos of Romania.

And despite the fact that rural development is only going to be accomplished outside of the agricultural sector with tourism playing the key role, subsidies will no doubt continue to be almost entirely focused on farmers.

The hospitality industry does not need subsidies or tax breaks but its growth will be enhanced by lower overall taxes and a reduction in red tape. The massive payroll taxes in some parts of Europe are a particular menace.

The fear is that the new European Commission is now dominated by bureaucrats bent on intervention. In reality, the change will probably be marginal as the existing Commission President, Jose Manuel Barroso, is in power for the next five years.

Under Barroso the Commission has been pro-market and this influence is likely to restrain attempts by France and Germany to move in the opposite direction, particularly given the perceived weakness of the new President, Belgian Prime Minister Herman Van Rompuy.

Also supporting Barroso is Olli Rehn of Finland and Joaquin Almunia of Spain, who have respectively been given the posts of Economic and Monetary Affairs, and Competition. The pro-business Baltic States are also likely to support Barroso.

That said, there is little doubt that the shuffle of commissioners has been a victory for France and Germany. The ability of the Commission to stand up to this power bloc has been weakened and this matters particularly in areas such as trade and regulation where the Commission has fought-off protectionist instincts.

In the hotel sphere, this means that Accor is probably even more protected from a hostile takeover, a significant reassurance to executives in that company as they seek to split the group into two, hotels and the voucher business.

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