Friday, April 22, 2016


On the map you see the names of the European countries from which participants
came at the seminar in Belgrade, the capital of Serbia (19-21 of April)

The Austrian trade union federation FCG/GPA-djp and the Dutch trade union confederation CNV organized together with the European Organization of Workers EO/WOW, the Serbian Federation SS Bofos and the European Centre for Workers' Questions EZA a European seminar especially for trade unions in Central and Eastern Europe. The seminar had about 70 participants coming from 20 different European countries. It was held in the city of Belgrade, the capital of Serbia, from Tuesday evening 19 until noon of Thursday 21 of April. Excellent speakers from different countries held introductions on the different aspects of the Eco-Social Market Economy.

Preparing the opening of the seminar. On the left Günther Trausznitz,
General Secretary of the FCG/GPA-djp (Austria) and President of the EO/WOW.
In front of him Bartho Pronk, President of the EZA.
Between them Mara Erdelj, President of SS Bofos (Serbia)
and member of the board of the EO/WOW.
They together spoke on the official opening of the seminar.

The definition of social market economy is: a form of market capitalism combined with a social policy which favours social insurance and solidarity. The social market economy forms the heart of our free and open national and, increasingly more, European society, which is also characterised by solidarity. It has proven itself as an economic system that allows for prosperity and full employment whilst also providing welfare and promoting a strong social fabric.

Günther welcomes the participants of the seminar on the morning of the 20th of April.

The concept of an Eco-social market economy was first developed in the 1980s by the Austrian politician Josef Riegler, who, out of concern for the environment, demanded that the social market economy should be further complemented by the component "environmental responsibility". It aims at balancing free market economics, the strive for social fairness and the sustainable use and protection of the natural resources. The eco-social market economy requires that the protection of the environment and social fairness are vital criteria for all economic activity.

Mr. Magister Johannes Mindrer-Steiner , Executive Director of the Institut for
Umwelt, Friede und Entwicklung IUFE (Austria), spoke on
"The Eco-Social market Economy: Hype or the future?"

In that sense the Eco-social market economy can be considered a very Social-Christian principle. Having a balance between the various actors of the economy does also imply that this is sustainable. The Biblical term for this is ‘custodianship’. Being responsible, in manner of acting, for current and future generations. Natural resources are not endless and should not easily be discarded. But one can easily translate this to sustainable welfare and solidarity.

Ms. Marija Parun Kolin, Senior Research Associate in the
Centre for Sociological Research, Institute of Social Sciences Belgrade (Serbia),
spoke about "Challenges for the Eco-Social Market Economy
in the new EU Member States."

So the Eco-social market economy aims at an enduring society in the respective cultural context, which is sustainable on three levels: environmental, social, and economical. This is in accordance to what is mentioned in the Treaty of Lisbon under article 3.

Mr. DI Josef Riegler, Vice-chancellor AD and Honorary President
Ökosozialen Forum (Austria), treated the "Eco-Social Market Economy:
a project for justice and peace."

But how to put the above into practice? The main issue is the compatibility of ecological and social aims with the principles of a market economy. The crucial question is: which framework conditions have to be created so that the dynamics of a market economy move within borders that are imposed by ecological and social aspects. Politics for the economy and for the society needs a clear regulatory framework. This is now more important than ever.

On the left Mara Erdelj, the chairperson on Thursday, and behind her
Mr. Dr. Petar Dukic, Professor Faculty of Technology and 
speaking about "Are the principles  of a market economy compatible
with ecological and social aims?

Saturday, March 12, 2016


The Bertelsmann Stiftung organized on the 10th of March a Brussels Briefing*, a meeting for Eurocrats, Europoliticians and Eurolobbyists , about “The future of the Euro: more discipline or more solidarity?” This is not an easy subject because of its complexity. The Euro is  a single currency for countries with different economies, different economic rules, different systems of government, different social and tax systems and different histories.

As long as the Euro-economies were growing, which was the case before 2008, everybody was happy, no questions asked about the Euro except by those whose profession is to be skeptical, as for example monetary experts and economists. When a crisis starts to develop more people become skeptical and critical, especially those who never liked much the Euro and the European Union. People started to look for who should be blamed for the problems. But blaming does not give solutions. In such a situation, it takes a lot of political courage to continue the dialogue for searching a solution. In this sense, the Euro countries have proven, to have sufficient political will and solidarity to solve the crisis together.

During the debt crisis of the last years have been developed new instruments and institutions to stabilize the Euro currency. But as professor Hendrik Enderlein explained on the Brussels Briefing “the crisis is not over”.  It is his opinion that if there are no changes, the Euro will not be viable in the long run because of more divergence instead of convergence between the Euro-countries, unclear competences in EU economic governance and a waning EU legitimacy as for example shows the coming referendum on a possible Brexit.

Europe is still suffering of high debt levels and low investment rates, low economic growth ( a lost decennium since 2008), a reform gap and distrust between the EU members. Besides all this, the EU is confronted with another crisis;  the massive influx of refugees from the Middle East what puts under pressure the Schengen agreement as one of the most practical and concrete results of the EU for Europeans.   

Enderlein therefore advocates a 'Repair and Prepare Strategy' based on the following principles:
As much integration as necessary, as little as possible
EMU level as part of multi-level governance ( EMU: European Monetary Union)
More sovereignty sharing together with more risk sharing.

Although, it was expected as a result of the Euro that the European countries would converge, the opposite happened, the Euro did bring divergence. “This divergence was not really surprising in view of the fact that the euro-area was a heterogenous economic space from the very beginning. Structural differences, such as labor market and product market structures, social security and welfare policies, and the banking and financial systems persisted. They reflect a history of different political choices and economic strategies." (page 13, What kind of convergence does the euro need?, edited by the Jacques Delors Institut and the Bertelsmann Stiftung). 

How do you keep so many different economies in one Eurobasket to guarantee a minimum of Euro Stability? The solution should be more convergence in prices. For example today we are confronted with a single interest rate based on the average inflation rate. “However, inflation rates diverse significantly within the euro area. Thus interest rates will be too low for countries with a high inflation rate, and vice versa. This means that the single interest rate destabilizes the euro. For this reason, inflation differentials should be as small as possible.” (page 13) 

The second requirement for convergence in the euro-area is to make sure that they are on a par with other countries in competitiveness and therefore keep wage growth pace with productivity. “Third, countries in the euro area ought to avoid permanent external imbalances. Both, excessive surpluses as well as excessive deficits, can cause problems for other member states.”

Professor Enderlein prescribes another set of measures to strengthen the single market as to stabilize more the euro: complete the single market for services (in the past strong contested by the European trade unions), improve labor mobility, portability of pension rights, recognition of professional qualifications, cooperation across employment agencies, domestic reforms facilitating price and wage adjustments. It is easy to see that all these measures will lead to much political debate on all levels, including the European trade unions.

Another proposal is to create an European Monetary Fund and the function of European Finance Minister. Both proposals suppose a transfer of  national sovereignty to Brussels and as we know, on this point more people feel  very uncomfortable and are even opposed to loss of more national sovereignty to Brussels. Britain is preparing a referendum on a possible Brexit, in the Netherlands a referendum will be held on the Association Treaty between Ukraine and the EU, in France the nationalist and anti Europe party Front National is becoming stronger and so on.

The 4th proposal is to complete the Banking Union. Although a lot has been done since the debt crisis much remains to be done. An important step would be the creation of a deposit insurance scheme and to organize macro prudential supervision.

In summary, Europe needs more convergence to improve monetary transmission, more risk-sharing to fight fragmentation and sovereignty-sharing to fight moral hazard. This should be based on the basic principle of “as much integration as needed, but as little as possible.” Therefore there is no need for a European super state and room for subsidiarity, in other words “Europe as part of multi-level governance.” Will this be enough to convince the anti Europeans, as well as the international financial markets and the political powers on world level? The answers are hidden in the future.

* Brussels Briefing of Prof. Dr. Hendrik Underlain, Jacques Delors Institut-Berlin & Hertie School of Governance and Dr. Katharina Gnath, Bertelsmann Stiftung, Brussels 10 March 2016

Friday, January 29, 2016


The flag of the merged trade union "CNV Craftsmen"

From January 1, the CNV Services Trade Union merged with CNV Trade Union of Craftsmen. With this merger the CNV Trade Union Craftsmen has become 160 000 members, all working in the private/market sector.
About hundred negotiators of this new trade union will play an important role in the creation of approximately 500 collective agreements in the Netherlands. In the magazine Akkoord of the former CNV Services Trade union, the current president Dirk Zwagerman and his predecessor Jaap Kos (1973-1995) look back at the rich history of their trafe union, which has reached the age of 112.

In 1894 was founded the predecessor of the CNV Services Trade union, the Dutch Association of Christian Clerical and Commercial Employees (NVCK & H). The NVCK & H is one of the oldest national trade unions in the Netherlands. Industrialization led to increase in scale. The larger working places created a need for advocacy for workers. Swagerman: "I have often thought about how it must have been during that time. I have deep respect for the people who did their trade union work alongside their normal work without any legal protection. To say something wrong could have immediately serious consequence at your workplace. These people took great risks. “

The last President of the CNV Services trade union who retired after the merger with
CNV Craftsmen

In 1909, the NVC K & H (about 500 members) and other unions founded the Trade Union Confederation CNV. Swagerman: "There is often a misunderstanding about the role of the trade union confederation. People often think that the confederation decides about trade union policies, but it is the other way around. At that time so many different national trade unions were founded, that together they decided to found a confederation, with the aim to do as much as possible together but at the same time to continue as independent trade unions. "

The beginning of the five year occupation of the the Netherlands by Hitler and the German Army. The leadership of CNV was taken over by the Dutch political party of Nazi’s (NSB). Within a few weeks 90% of the members left the confederation.

The former President of the CNV Services trade union Jaap Kos (left) was also President of the World Federation of Clerical Workers WFCW, the predecessor of WOW. The photograph was made at a meeting of the European Board of the WFCW held in Zürich, Swiss (August 27, 1992). From left to right: Jaap Kos (President of WCFW coming from the Dutch CNV Services trade union), Richard Paiha (Board member and Secretary General of the Austrian FCG-GPA), Charles Steck (Treasurer of the WFCW coming from the Swiss trade union Syna), Ivo Penner (President of the European Organization of the WFCW and  coming from the Austrian trade union FCG-GPA), Piet Nelissen (executive secretary WFCW and confederal secretary World Confederation of Labour)

Merger of the NVCK & H with the Trade Union of Technicians (NVCT) and the Trade Union of Craftsmen (NCWB), both also members of the CNV Confederation, into the Dutch Christian Trade Union of Employees (NCBB)

The name NCBB is changed into HBV (Commerce, Banking and Insurance) with 12 949 members.
Jaap Kos:  "Until the name changed into Services Trade union (Dienstenbond CNV) in 1978, the HBV was a bit of a dusty club. I thought it was even a bit of a dowdy club, housed in a stately mansion in Amsterdam. There were old-fashioned furniture and an old typewriter. The HBV had a bit of a bureaucratic appearance, what we call in the Netherlands men-brothers ambiance. “

1977 is the year of the the first strikes. Jaap Kos: "As Christian trade union we were involved in strikes only from 1977. It was very special because we had no history of strikes,. I remember particularly the strike at the broadcasting stations. TV newsman Charles Groenhuijsen wanted to make a news item about the strike until I reminded him that he himself was part of the strike. At one point I myself was threatened by viewers when television and radio went on black. “

Launch of growth models by borrowing millions at other CNV trade unions. Swagerman: "The services sector became more important for the Dutch economy. Employment was growing enormously. We as Services Trade union had not enough financial resources to deal with the growth in an optimal way. In order not to be blown away at the negotiating tables - especially with large employers - we must grow: both in terms of membership and organization as well as in terms of professionalism. By borrowing money from other CNV trade unions, we could for instance attract more lawyers and negotiators and professionalize on other areas. “

100 th anniversary of the CNV Services Trade union. The growth models proved to be successful: 21 250 members.

Mass Demonstration on the Museumplein against government plans regarding early retirement, pension and disability insurance (300,000 demonstrators).

The merger with CNV Trade union of Craftsmen (160,000 members). Swagerman: "I will soon become one of the leaving chairmen. I am confident that we will pass in good way our wonderful history to the new organization." 

Piet Fortuin, the new President of the merged CNV Craftsmen trade union.

New Approach
Piet Fortuin is the new President of the CNV Craftsmen. "We want to be very emphatically a reliable partner for workers which they can consult throughout their careers." He adds: "We are not a trade union of different menus and six persons are waiting before you."
Therefore our trade union launches soon the digital platform "Your Supporters". This platform is set up for each sector and provides both members and non-members a place to engage with each other and with trade union professionals. Workers can discuss on the platform about irregularities that occur in their industry or business so that colleagues and trade union professionals can respond. Thanks to the many interactions that will follow, the support and representation of collective agreements will be increased."

Kees van Kortenhof