(9 February 2018) The European Commission published its Balkan Strategy 6 February 2018. The strategy attempts to provide a comprehensive overview of the challenges EU integration will bring for the countries concerned and the EU. It lists several actions and including increased funding for health and education. Serbia and Montenegro are offered the perspective of joining the EU in 2025. The Commission has much to say on using the EU integration process to create markets, protect property rights and promote competition. It has far less to say on reducing wealth inequalities. What the strategy misses is a focus on how central the role of trade unions, collective bargaining and social dialogue is. This concerns the many reforms that are being suggested by the European Commission in the field of public administration and the labour market for example. Such reforms touch all workers, their families and communities. Workers and their unions are further key allies to address corruption and the tax avoidance of the rich and wealthy. Trade unions play a crucial in reinforcing democracy, freedom of expression and promoting fundamental rights and access to public services.
EPSU’s General Secretary “The package misses out completely on offering workers and their unions a direct perspective on improved rights, better pay and conditions, strengthened collective bargaining, quality public services and developing social protection systems. The strategy fails to recognise how essential strong unions are for democratic and equitable societies.”
EPSU will work with its affiliates in the Western Balkan countries to consider the implications of the strategy and EU integration.