6th Congress of the Federation of Independent Trade Unions of Russia (FNPR)

Moscow, 14-16/11/2006

To be checked against delivery

President, Delegates, Friends.

I am glad and honoured to bring you greetings on behalf of the European Trade Union Confederation.

Your Congress comes at a time of momentous change in the world trade union Movement. Earlier this month, in Vienna, we saw the birth of a new, united, democratic, International Trade Union Confederation.

It was also agreed to set up a Pan-European Regional Council of the new international. This will range geographically from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean; from the Arctic Circle to the steppes of Central Asia.

There has never been a trade union structure for Europe like this before. While maintaining its autonomy, the ETUC will play its part in it. Our joint work with the FNPR will be an important component in the activities of the Council, which we hope will be launched during the first quarter of next year.

And, just last week, in Helsinki, we held the first official summit meeting between the ETUC and the FNPR, to send a strong message to our respective political leaders that the relationship between the European Union and the Russian Federation must have a social dimension, and that trade unions need to be involved formally through social dialogue structures.

So, we are constructing tools to give trade unions a strong voice in Europe.

This is an urgent task. We are facing a new form of global capitalism based on stockholders' aspirations; greedy; aggressive; short-termist. Whether they are oligarchs or hedge funds, their objective is to maximise profit irrespective of the economic, social or industrial consequences.

But the process of globalisation must be managed in a way that restores the primacy of politics over markets and thus our ability, as Europeans, to control our own destiny. So we, the ETUC and FNPR, need to develop our countervailing voice.

We need to ensure that workers' voices are heard and that relations are not based only on trade and economic arrangements.

We need to ensure that Europe - all Europe - takes the lead in promoting our core values for democracy, for sustainable development, and the respect of human and trade human rights.

The values set down in the Social Charter of the Council of Europe should be fully implemented throughout our continent, here and everywhere else - including Belarus.

Colleagues, in the European Union we have much to do also.

Globalisation is putting many workers under great pressure as competitive advantage switches to low cost countries or low cost immigrant workers. Any acceleration of wages is seen as a threat even when the share of wages in GDP has been falling as well as inequality rising. Financial liberalisation is a potentially mortal threat to the Economic and Social Europe, the Social Market economy, we have built over the years.

So we are in a combative mood. We will demonstrate this in particular at our Congress next May.

May I wish you all the best in your struggle too, fighting for a Russia, like we do for Europe, with a human face, a strong economic dimension, social progress, and peace.

Thank you.