On 13 May, AREA hosted its Spring General Assembly in Athens, Greece. After two years of online meetings, returning to the ‘’traditional’’ format was gladly welcomed by all members and provided the opportunity to have lively discussions surrounding key issues for the association as well as much needed time to re-connect.

During this meeting, elections for the Board positions took place for the period 2022-2024.

We gladly welcomed some new and some returning faces, including:

  • Coen van de Sande, NVKL (Netherlands), President
  • Marco Buoni, ATF (Italy), Past President with a special mandate for “International Affairs”
  • Grzegorz Michalski, KFCh (Poland), Vice President
  • Seamus Kerr, IRI (Ireland), Treasurer (second mandate)
  • Thanos Biris, HUFGAS (Greece), Board member (second mandate)
  • Stepan Stojanov, SCHKT (Czechia), Board member
  • Espen Rønning, VKE (Norway), Board member

In addition to this, Claire Grossmann, was announced as the new Secretary General, taking over from Olivier Janin.  

Welcoming our new President, Coen van de Sande, Director of NVKL, as he begins his mandate, we asked him a few key questions to get to know him better and hear about his vision for AREA in the coming years!

  1. You are AREA’s new President. Congratulations! What inspired you to take up this new position?

Thanks. I get most inspired by the challenge our members are facing in the coming years: the transition to a sustainable world. Contractors play a key role in this transition that not only includes the transition to low GWP refrigerants, but even more important, includes the transition to energy efficient installations like heat pumps and the transition to a circular economy which implies that the systems our members install and maintain should also become circular.

We have to guide and inspire our member associations and their members to meet the challenges these transitions entail.

  1. How long have you and your association been an active member of AREA? What drove you to become member?

In fact, NVKL was one of the founders of AREA back in 1989, so we have been on board right from the beginning because we believe in EU-wide cooperation between associations of contractors and the mutual exchanging of knowledge.

  1. How does AREA help your association to achieve your goals and support your association’s mission?

Legislation and standardisation became more and more a EU playing field in the last two decades. EU wide cooperation between associations of contractors through AREA is crucial to make the voice of contractors heard in all relevant EU institutions like the Commission, Parliament, Council and other umbrella associations in our (RACHP) sector.  Without AREA we wouldn’t be in any position to influence the development and implementation of legislation and standardisation.    

  1. What do you see as the biggest challenge and opportunity for the refrigeration, air conditioning and heat pump industry in Europe today?

The 3 transitions that I earlier mentioned all have a great impact on the day-to-day business of our members. They need to train, educate and certify their personnel and adapt their business operations to meet the challenges these transitions bring along. AREA and member associations play a key role in supporting contractors to meet these challenges by developing all kinds of supporting and safeguarding no one is left behind.

  1. Where do you see AREA making a difference in addressing these challenges?

In the past decades we built a strong and professional association with one of the highest participation rates in the EU-playing field (25 associations of 23 countries and still growing). That makes AREA a highly valued and recognised speaking partner of all relevant stakeholders in the EU-playing field. The cooperation and exchanging of knowledge between the AREA members also helps individual members to support their own members in meeting these challenges.

  1. As President, what are the key areas that you would like to tackle during your mandate? What are your priorities?

My priority as president of AREA is ensuring that we focus on supporting contractors with the challenges they are facing in the 3 earlier mentioned transitions. I want to support other stakeholders but also let them fight their own battles if it doesn’t benefit our members. 

  1. At the end of your mandate, if you could have one achievement, what would you like it to be?

I am satisfied if we have made a big step in supporting and facilitating our members in the challenges they are meeting in their day-to-day business to meet the requirements of the transition to a sustainable world. We have done that by safeguarding new and reviewed regulations and standards (like F-gas regulation and the Fit for 55 package). We must ensure that legislation is achievable and manageable for our members and that we also have developed an appropriate training and education program for them to acquire the necessary knowledge that is needed to actually give substance to the goals of sustainability.