1989-2019: Trade Union and Politics - The Past and Future of a Social Europe

From 25 to 28 April 2019, the KGZE (Conference on Trade Union Cooperation in Europe) took place in Ljubljana, Slovenia, entitled "1989-2019: Trade Union and Politics - The Past and Future of a Social Europe". It was organized by ÖZA (Austrian Centre for Employee Training), in cooperation with ZD NSi (Združenje delavcev Nove Slovenije) and with the support of EZA and the European Union.

The approximately 75 participants came from workers' organizations from Albania, Belgium, Germany, Italy, Kosovo (as guests), Lithuania, Luxembourg, North Macedonia, Netherlands, Austria, Poland, Portugal, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Czech Republic and Ukraine (as guests).

For the organizer ÖZA, President Norbert SCHNEDL pointed out the radical change that Europe has experienced over the past 30 years. Even before the fall of the Iron Curtain, which had divided Europe into two halves for decades, the first KGZE took place in Vienna in the spring of 1989. Meanwhile, the EU is the world's most successful peace project in human history.

As president of the partner organization ZD NSi, Janez CIGLER-KRALJ emphasized the excellent cooperation with ÖZA and EZA and stressed the importance of such conferences, especially in times of "Brexit" and upcoming EU elections.

The Director of the Foreign Trade Centre Ljubljana, Dr Wilhelm-Peter HASSLACHER, emphasized the importance of social dialogue, especially in the development and support of investors in Slovenia.

EZA Honorary President, Bartho PRONK congratulated ÖZA on its outstanding performance in not only continuing the KGZE in this quality through the three decades but also making it a "beacon" among the EZA seminars with ever-interesting focuses.

Perspectives 1989 - 2019: How have the union and politics developed in these three decades?

Anton KOKALJ, ZD NSi described, in particular, the dissolution of Slovenia from the former Yugoslav state in 1989 and the brief civil war in 1990. Although the development towards independence and then the accession to the EU are significant for Slovenia, many citizens would have the hope for one faster change. He stressed the absolute necessity of the rule of law and expressed his desire for a Europe of the regions.

Jakob POCIVAVSEK of the PERGAM union gave an insight into the creation and development of independent trade unions in Slovenia, which - as in the whole of Central and Eastern Europe - is strongly influenced by the decades in which trade unions have acted as part of the state power and the Communist Party. Now the unions are trying to achieve their independence - even from all political parties - but they are struggling with heavy fragmentation in professional groups.

Where will our society develop in 2050? A (view) into a digital future? Which ethical questions are raised in the digital age?

Dr. Bernhard LEUBOLT of the ksoe described the transformation through digitalization in society. Primarily dealing with the time is increasingly problematic: the mixing of work and leisure; the acceleration of all areas of life; the intensity due to simultaneous multiple burdens; but also an exclusion of people without digital access ("digital outsiders") is observed. With the question of who benefits from digitization, control of digital technology must be for the benefit of all people. Science and technology are not neutral, they have to develop towards sustainability and lead to a "good life for all people".

Matej CEPIN from the Slovenian Socialna Akademia explained that working with young people has made it increasingly clear that the world has become smaller and faster than ever before. The smartphone - and the constant use of an electronic cyber world - could lead to addictive behaviour by triggering happiness hormones in the human body. Therefore, it is becoming increasingly important to counter this real threat and to promote not only the technical side of life but also the social, creative side.

Prof. Milan KATUNINEC from Trnava described to the year 1989 and the fall of the communist system in Central and Eastern Europe: "Never before in Europe has Europe come so close to unity in freedom." The digital revolution is currently undergoing a vast process of change, there is a danger of a loss of meaning and reality. He demanded critical thinking and saw the greatest threat in a lifestyle that no longer wanted to accept responsibility for comfort, indifference, and recklessness.

How can young people be won over to workers' organizations and how will youth representation be guaranteed in the future? Which topics will determine the coming years?

Neza REPANSEK from the EZA Young Workers' Platform described Generation Y's life (born between 1980 and 2000), who have significantly different "expectations of (professional) life" than their parents or grandparents. From "activists" would more and more often "clicktivists" inside, who believed that they could achieve anything with a mouse click.

Denis STRIEDER of the FCG Youth described the 17 goals of the UN for sustainable development (Sustainable Development Goals) as a focus of work in the coming years because environment and climate were among the biggest challenges of the present.

The further development of the EU through the implementation of the European Pillar of Social Rights. Do these form the basis for improved social dialogue?

Andreas GJECAJ from ÖZA presented the 20 principles of the "European Pillar of Social Rights" along with the laws of Christian Social Teaching. The main requirement was to be actively involved in the discussions in the respective countries to take steps to implement the social pillar - through appropriate legislation in the respective parliaments.

Bert van CAELENBERG of EUROFEDOP demanded that the priorities of equal opportunities and access to the labour market; fair working conditions and social protection and social inclusion following the Gothenburg decision in November 2017 should now be implemented:

Country reports were presented on the current status and the successful development of the "social dialogue", and an exchange of views on the respective situation took place.

Information visit to the Foreign Trade Centre Ljubljana

In the meeting with Mag. Paul OLYNEC he described the activities of the centre as a hub for investors - the operator is the Austrian Federal Economic Chamber, which offers this service station bilaterally. It would also offer projects such as the promotion of teaching (dual training) with EU support.