The seminar was opened by Mr. Imre Palkovics, President of the National Federation of Workers’ Councils. The president said: the theme of the seminar chosen by MOSZ and EZA together is highly topical, which is even more relevant now with the EP elections approaching. The question of the opportunities for trade union cooperation at European level within the framework of EZA is raised with this respect. We can also inform the political parties running at the elections about the outcome of the exchange of ideas, shared concerns and objectives of the representatives of the Central-and East European countries and ’old’ MS.
Cross-border mobility, migration is usually called emigration, which has been present in our societies for quite a long time. Political and economic transition, the accession to the European Union opened up a new path for countries in Eastern Europe since 1990. Earlier, if an East-European worker wanted to take up employment in a more developed region of Europe, he/she had to face criminal proceedings for the unlawful act of leaving the country. However, these times are over, anybody can decide freely where to live and work on the labour market of the European Union.
This, however, has not made the decision so easy, if one wants to take this step, he/she will have to face serious difficulties. Not only do they have to decide upon the destination where wages are higher, but the risk of being unemployed also has to be taken into account. One has to strike a balance between financial gains and human aspects, such as a foreign environment, leaving friends and relatives behind, and the natural environment which one liked and where one was grown up.
After the opening address of president Imre Palkovics, participants were welcomed by Mr. Matthias Homey on behalf of EZA.
He said: EZA was founded in 1985, its full name is European Centre for Workers’ Questions. EZA since it was established examines questions related to the European Social Dialogue at its seminars. Migration is a key phenomenon in the European Union, and according to EZA if we talk about a single European market, we also have to talk about its human dimension, social Europe. It is important to exchange our observations in the issue of migration, which can take place within the EU and from third countries towards the EU.
EZA has a positive opinion concerning migration. West-European countries are usually host countries for East-Europeans. We have diverging experience, because these are the countries from where young and highly qualified professional leave, depriving at least for some time the country of its dynamism and resources. This problem has to be managed.
Migration does not mean that one leaves his/her home country for ever, it is important to remember. Migration also includes the opportunity of people returning to their countries of origin, with new experience and knowledge. This is the source of important contribution to working culture in the home-country.
„I think our responsibility is to improve the image of migration by emphasizing that this is a two-way process, which makes it possible for migrants to return home some time in the future” – Matthias Homey reiterated.
Matthias Homey added that this year EZA launched a series of programs made up of 5 seminars, which examine the issue of cross-border mobility from various aspects. A major objective of these seminars is to enhance the cooperation between trade unions in Western and Eastern Europe, in order to enable these organisations to provide assistance for their members.
Attila Melegh talked about the most important aspects of the Seemig project, which is a strategic project financed by the European Union. The objective of the project is to increase knowledge related to long-term migratory and demographic processes, with special attention paid to South-East Europe, and the impacts of these processes on labour markets, national and regional economies. Melegh Attila said: global data are contradictory, but the intensity of labour migration seems to be increasing, especially in the area which is difficult to describe with statistical data, namely commuting and short-term migration.
Emigration is a sore point for Romania, Bulgaria, Serbia or Albania. These countries were always sending countries, primarily due to their geographical positions. Now the question is whether Poland, Slovakia or Hungary will also find themselves in the same situation. Important is the aspect that a flow back to the countries of origin can also be observed. The nature of migration has changed: nobody leaves for ever. This is a phenomenon of the past.
Ágnes Hárs, senior researcher, at Kopin-Tárki Research Institute and György Lajtai, economist and expert of MOSZ gave an evaluation of the labour market and migration in Hungary.
Feruccio Pisoni and Francesco Bocchetti, representing UNAIE (Italy) talked about the positive aspects and risks of cross-border migration.
Veselina Starcheva (Podkrepa, Bulgaria) presented the tasks of trade unions in the sending countries, talking about what unions can do for mobile workers, those who are preparing to work abroad. Podkrepa staff give advice in some Bulgarian cities to those who wish to find employment abroad, they prepare information materials for the members, furthermore they closely cooperate with trade unions in the target countries.
Anna Isabel Aguilera Mellando, and Juan Carlos Barcia Barrera representing Fundación Humanismo Democracia (Spain) analysed the main motivations of cross-border migration in the Mediterranean region.
The representative of the National Employment Service in Hungary, Mr.Bors Borbély-Pecze presented in detail mobility as an instrument in personal career-development.
The first day of the seminar was finished with dinner and friendly conversation with participants.
The seminar continued on 16 May, Friday
In the morning Bertold Dallos, from ÖGB Burgenland presented the project of ÖGB. This project aims to provide advice to would-be migrants in their own mother tongue, about the legal environment, and try to recruit members for ÖGB.
Frederic De Wispelaere, senior researcher of HIVA-KU Leuven made a presentation on the impacts of Regulation 883/2004 on social dumping. Based on research and statistics he showed that the social dumping was not as extensive and dangerous as suggested by the media, and fears with regard to this are not realistic.
Dr. Judit Ivány Czugler, Vice-President of MOSZ and professor of labour law described the legal framework of the free movement of persons, and institutions such as EURES promoting this free movement.
Summary: György Lajtai expert of MOSZ, the organiser of the seminar summarised the most important thoughts of the two days. He said that there were huge differences from the perspective of employment. There is a growing trend in the area of migration, over the past few years the number of those working abroad has doubled. The wage gap between MS is widening. Consequently, mobility has an unfavourable aspect. However, mobility is to be welcomed as a tool for personal career development. The objective of trade unions is to enhance the mobility of this sort.
Mr. Lajtai speaking on behalf of MOSZ underlined that we can provide some assistance to our Serbian colleagues in the EU accession process. Serbian TUC Nezavisnost was also represented at the seminar.
Mr. Lajtai thanked Matthias Homey for the professional and financial assistance provided by EZA and expressed his hopes that the exchange of ideas will be continued at the forthcoming 4 seminars, in the interest of European workers and in order to improve their situation.