(19 October 2023) On October 11th and 12th, a delegation of the Serbian army soldiers trade union (VSS) visited the Federation of European Public Service Unions (EPSU), as well as several members of the European Parliament and other international and European trade union organisations. The delegation was composed of the union's president Novica Antić, who has been dismissed from his army job; Predrag Jevtić, the General Secretary of the union and also victimised by the authorities; and Mitar Krstić, the lawyer of the VSS union.
The delegation met with Anton Leppik from ITUC’s Pan-European Council to discuss the possible routes to denounce the victimisation of the trade union representatives under the ILO complaints system. The delegation also met with EPSU General Secretary Jan Willem Goudriaan and Nadja Salson, EPSU’s policy officer for National and European Administration, to discuss how to further support their efforts to reinstate both trade union leaders. The VSS, the most representative trade union in the Serbian army, is being harassed by the authorities due to its pro-democracy stance and its denunciation of corrupt practices within the military. EPSU and EUROMIL, the European federation for military personnel, to which VSS is also affiliated, have written to different authorities to denounce the attacks on the union.
The delegation also met with Tea Jarc, Confederal Secretary of the ETUC and the President and Vice-President of the European Parliament’s EU-Serbia Parliamentary Assembly - Alessandra Moretti (S&D, IT) and Viola von Cramon-Taubadel (Greens, DE). Both pledged their support to democracy and fundamental rights. Serbia has signed and ratified ILO conventions 98 and 87 giving soldiers in the army the right to unionise and elect representatives, but these rights are being questioned. Both MEPs pledged their support to upholding the rule of law (a basic EU principle). The VSS delegation also met with Vladmiri Bilcik MEP (Slovakia, EPP), the rapporteur on the EU-Serbia accession talks.
The army union’s fight will continue. They have applied to the Supreme Court to endorse the reinstatement of the president, as the case has already been won in the ordinary courts. EPSU will continue to support its affiliates in the fight for the defence of basic trade union rights and the right to organise.