Nezavisnost 6th Congress

Belgrade, 24/11/2006

To be checked against deliver


15 years ¨C this is a long time in a man¡¯s life and a short one in the life of a trade union organisation.

But that ¡°Nezavisnost¡± did survive since its founding in 1991 ¨C in the middle of the turbulences of the fall of Yougoslavia ¨C this is a remarkable event in the history of the trade union movement in this country.

This is remarkable, mainly because of the following:

¡ñ from the beginning on, your organisation had been under pressure. The fact that you realised earlier than others that one cannot ¡°eat nationalism¡± but that ¡°nationalism is eating you¡± was not really popular and provoked the protagonists of nationalistic phantasms.

¡ñ from the beginning on, your organisation took a realistic view in adopting projects and concepts for the economic and social reform bitterly ¨C and still ¨C needed in this country. Consequently you started a long-lasting fight against nepotism, enrichment and corruption. This is clearly not the best way to make friends all around the place.

¡ñ from the beginning on, your organisation tried lay sustainable grounds for the renewal of the trade union movement on the basis of independence and democracy. For your confederation, you have achieved it. I sincerely hope that others will follow ¨C in the interest of the workers, in the interest of the whole society and ¨C last not least ¨C in the interest of the European perspective of Serbia. I will come back to that later.

ETUC had been with you from the very first day. So we are in a position to witness that with courage and optimism you got through a long period of pressure and harassment, conducted by power in place on the state and company level and by those unions that had been a tool in the hands of the power structure. You decided not to be everybody¡¯s darling. You paid the price. And we pay tribute to what should be called ¡°Zivilcourage¡±.

The story is not over. You still do not have what you are entitled to have: access to office space that had been at the disposal of the trade unions in Serbia before. I recently noted that finally your government made you an offer. Unfortunately ¨C and I saw a documentation about it ¨C a totally unacceptable offer, a humiliating offer, a devastated barrack. I sincerely regret the fact that an arrangement among trade unions could not be found and that no fair share had been realized.

It must be stated that all over Eastern and Central Europe ¨C and there is no exception ¨C the trade union properties had been shared by the reformed and emerging trade union organisations. In Hungary, in Romania, Bulgaria and recently in Poland. It is time that the situation in Serbia is changing. I appeal to the Serb government not to hesitate anymore but to deliver a solution and no longer just promises.

Delegates, with the founding of the International Trade Union Confederation last month in Vienna, a new chapter in the international trade union has been opened. A united and pluralistic international trade union organisation is since a long time a strong need for us to represent in the best possible way workers interests in the context of globalisation. Instead of victimising ourselves, we must do our homework and prepare ourselves to be a player and not just a victim. Vienna was a good start. The most important has been done. The most difficult is ahead of us. To make out of it a real success story.

Parctically all of the ETUC members joined the ITUC and will be a part of the European Regional Council. We will do our best to make it operational, credible and to achieve internal cohesion. But the ETUC as such will continue to exist as the only relevant and recognized workers representation on the level of the European Union. And to be very clear and to avoid any misunderstanding: affiliation to the European Regional Council, to the new International does not automatically mean affiliation to the ETUC. There is no automatism. ETUC will continue to stick to its criteria. They are well known by all those that are interested. ¡°Nezavisnost¡± is for the time being the only affiliate from Serbia.

Having said that, I express my sincere hope that as soon as possible conditions will be there that will allow broad and solid trade union cooperation among the existing components in Serbia. Your country is a part of the European integration process and if certain specific conditions will be fulfilled. Serbia will become a candidate country to the European Union. There is no paradise at the end of the way but there will be a promising and important perspective for the country¡¯s future. The way is paved with problems to be solved. And not to sell out on the way workers interest, a strong, operational and competent trade union movement is need, pluralistic but respectful to each other and able to act jointly if needed.

Social dialogue is a key word. As far as I can see from the outside, there is no real social dialogue in Serbia. And what is written in your new constitution, namely that social dialogue has exclusively be conducted by employers and trade unions is misleading. It is misleading because it ignores the fact that especially in the period of transition the role of the state is an important one. The state authorities cannot abstain to respect its responsibilities.

When it comes to negotiations between Serbia and the European Union, the ETUC will assist you in the best possible way, hoping that there will be substantial change allowing to join forces. Our agenda is clear and will be on the top of the agenda at our Congress next year in May in Seville: United for employment, economic and social progress and participation.

¡°Nezavisnost¡±, all of you made a great job in the past fifteen years. I wish you well for the future. A common future in our common Europe.