The European integration of the Western Balkans: the role of workers' organizations in promoting social dialogue

From February 4 to 6, 2020, the seminar on "The European integration of the Western Balkans: the role of workers' organizations in promoting social dialogue" was held in Bucharest, organised by MCL/EFAL (Movimento Cristiano Lavoratori / Ente Nazionale per la Formazione e l'Addestramento dei Lavoratori), with the support of EZA and the European Union. 37 representatives of workers' organisations from Italy, Croatia, Bulgaria, Romania, Moldova (guests) and Bosnia-Herzegovina (guests) took part in the seminar.

The seminar was opened by EZA co-president Piergiorgio Sciacqua, who emphasised the importance and role of the European social dialogue in this very area and explained the motives for the seminar: introducing the various speakers who followed in the next days.

Social dialogue and the participation of the social partners, in particular the employer and workers organisations, which have a major impact on the world of work, constitute the basic pillar of the functioning of the ILO. This idea was the starting point for the various lectures, but different aspects were addressed. A very important contribution was made by the Bishop from Bucharest. He stressed the importance of this country within the EU and emphasised the need for synergy in order to overcome certain obstacles such as emigration.

It was no coincidence that the speakers came from the most important areas of the Western Balkans. The first field report as presented by Mr. Franjo Topic, representative of the Croatian organization Napredak, who reported on his efforts for Croatia's full integration, for which he campaigned not only during the war, but still today.

Mr. Bogdan Hossu, President of Cartel Alfa/Romania, stressed the importance of the European Pillar of Social Rights in the European Union, which he sees as the only path to development and social cohesion.

He argued that there are three to four million Romanians abroad, while the country itself lacks labour, even in large companies, and then found itself with immigrants come to the country.

For example, in Bucharest and elsewhere there is a large community of Vietnamese. They do not speak English or Romanian, some are Catholics and attempts are being made to help them. Catholics are a minority in Vietnam, but are very active.

There is great fear of foreigners, even though Rumanians are migrants. Romania has always been a very hospitable country. And there is certainly no pressure from population groups waiting to enter the country. Very important contributions were also delivered by Mr. Paolo Cesana, Director of the Clerici Foundation on "Vocational training is the key to development: Italian experience and labour policy. New Frontiers". The President of SONK, North Macedonia, reported on "Towards European integration: problems and the state of negotiations." The issue of "Social dialogue when Europe is still far away: Poverty is gaining in Moldova" was dealt with by Monsignor Cesare Lodeserto Vicar of the Diocese of Chisinau. Mr. Alban Sylafeta, Director of the Women Business Association, Kosovo, spoke about "Kosovo and Strategies for Community Integration." Bosnia-Herzegovina and European Integration "was dealt with by Mr. Nikola Cica, President of Napredak from Bosnia and Herzegovina.


The last day ended with a round table chaired by EFAL President Mr. Sergio Silvani, comparing territorial and intra-regional experiences and discussing how best to tackle worker integration through national and local measures.

It emerged from this seminar that Europe "will and must only find itself again if it is not afraid to expand in order to really breathe with its two lungs". In this sense, the Balkans "cannot be left to their own devices as they run the risk of becoming easy prey for the hegemonic Turkish or Russian aspirations already seen in Libya and more generally in the Mediterranean, which through the short-sightedness of the present EU could not be included in an overall plan ". The seminar in Bucharest confirmed the idea of a subsidiary and generative Europe that aspires to its entire space and, with foresight, finds itself as a "force for peace" in a global and globalised context

The motto of these three days was unity. Union between countries is still and forever an ideal to aspire at. We must invest energy to make it a reality by restoring the founding fathers' perspectives and truly making it a virtuous synthesis of our differences, not washing away the identities that make it up, but rather promoting them.