Social dialogue was the theme of the round table “Current Challenges and Future Perspectives of Employers’ Associations in the Balkans” held this week in Ljubljana where employers’ associations representatives from Montenegro, Serbia, Macedonia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Srpska Republic presented the problems they face in their countries. Problems arising from cooperation with governments and trade unions were presented to the members of European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) that hosted the event. A major problem regarding social dialogue in most of the Balkan countries are governments that usually do not respect social partners as well as frequent elections that put business in the second place.
Problems in social dialogue implementation in Montenegro were presented by Suzana Radulovic, MEF Secretary General, who pointed out that only a small portion of Social Council legislative scope of action was realised.
“Social Council has always been chaired by the minister of labour, despite the envisaged principle of rotation of presidency. For the last four years we have had 4 ministers that came from different backgrounds and took time to familiarise with social dialogue. It is the reason why there were times when Social Council had not had sessions for almost a year”, said Mrs Radulovic.
She pointed out that MEF representatives participated in working groups dealing with number of laws but that there were still a significant number of laws in drafting where employers’ representatives were left out.
“A Law on Business Entities is an example. The Government was obliged to include us in the process of drafting as a social partner”, Mrs Radulovic pointed out.
She fears that Montenegro might enter EU but with weak and fragile economy that would not respond to European market play.
“Political situation is highly problematic for economy because it pushed many things aside. In the pre-election campaign to both position and opposition economy is nothing more than a buzzword and propaganda whereby none of the promises is implemented after elections. On the contrary, since its constitution in December Government adopted only new repressive measures, increased current and introduced new duties”, emphasized Mrs Radulovic.
Countries from the region face similar problems. There is no economic-social council at national level in Bosnia and Herzegovina only at the level of cantons and municipalities while social dialogue in Serbia is blocked by trade unions that support the Government. In Srpska Republic, elections are held every two years and Macedonia is struggling really hard to reach European standards.
The only country in the Balkans that does not face problems in relation to social dialogue is Croatia. Croatian Employers Association participates in legislative projects and their suggestions regarding taxation and public procurement are accepted. Nevertheless, despite good social dialogue frequent elections remain a problem.
General Director of Business Europe pointed out that Balkan countries are neither forgotten nor a top priority while EESC President suggested all problems discussed should be compiled in a single paper.
Slovenia as a positive example
When it comes to social dialogue, Slovenia is a positive example among ex-Yugoslav countries. Social partners in Slovenia trust each other and the country does a lot to ensure greater labour rights and better private life for its citizens.