The post-congress year 1994 began with the annual meeting of the European Council of the European Organization of the World Federation of Clerical Workers (EO/ WFCW) together with a seminar in Switzerland. It was a habit from the WCL to take care of the secretariat of the meeting and the seminar and to provide for interpreters. During the seminar speakers from within and outside the WFCW spoke about new developments in companies, banks and commerce such as flexible working hours, on-call workers, part-time contracts, etc. Also, experience is exchanged and developments in the countries about labour and trade unions are reported. The European Organization of the WFCW was not recognized as a social partner of the European Commission. That did not bother us too much. We were able to lobby for our views through our own contacts in and outside the European Parliament . Later on we organized a lobby about the proposals for a new European regulation of working hours and overtime. Our commitment was the preservation of Sunday as a day of rest, a campaign that was conducted as well by FETRALCOS in Latin America.
My first mission with Bogdan Hossu as the new WCL Vice President for Central and Eastern Europe, was to the recent independent Croatia (June 1991), one of the states of the former communist Yugoslavia. The post-communist and reformed trade union confederation UATUC had requested the WCL mission as part of their investigation into an international affiliation. The debates with the UATUC Board, led by President Dragutin Lesar, were promising. It looked as if the UATUC would opt for joining the WCL.
Thanks to a visit to an area outside Zagreb affected by war , we were able to see for the first time with our own eyes the destruction that the Yugoslav war caused among the civilian population. The Yugoslavian war had become the bloodiest violence conflict in Europe since World War II. Despite the fact that Yugoslavia was a federal republic since World War II , in which several nations were united, it turned out to be untenable. Once Croatia declared independence under General Franjo Tudman without much ado, a kind of civil war broke out . What was left of the Yugoslav army, mostly Serbian and Montenegrin officers, invaded Croatia . Distrust was sown and led to a cruel war between the former Yugoslavian states Serbia , Croatia and Bosnia - Herzogowina . Yugoslavia turned out to have been an forced artificial unity guided by President Tito and the Communist Party.
|Bogdan Hossu (on the right) and myself having a meeting with UATUC leaders in Karlovac, Croatia|
The European Union proved powerless even to be divided over the policy to be followed. The first goal was to keep Yugoslavia together but that proved to be untenable. Old friendships, one thought they were forgotten, cropped up again. The conflict was ended only when NATO under U.S. leadership bombed Serbian nationalist President Milosevic to the negotiating table, with of course once again civilian casualties. The negotiations took place between November 1 and November 21, 1995 at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in the U.S. city of Dayton. The main participants from the region were Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic, Croatian President Franjo Tudjman, the Bosnian President Alija Izetbegovic and Bosnian Foreign Minister Mohammed Sacirbey. The treaty was signed in Paris on December 14, 1995.
In that period (November 1994) the UATUC held its congress. On behalf of the WCL, I was present together with Rudy de la Rue, policy officer of the Belgium trade union confederation ACV. Dragutin Lesar was not anymore a candidate for re-election as president of UATUC. During the conference and after, it became clear that the new leadership of UATUC did not plan anymore to join the WCL. Press Officer Jasna Petrovic took more distance of us than before. As a kind of consolation, the European Organization of WFCW could continue with the small trade union of employees in banks. Especially the Austrian friends invested a lot of time and money to develop this trade union. The larger trade union in the sector of commerce, which had been invited regularly to the yearly meetings in Central and Eastern Europe organized by our Austrian friends, had meanwhile joined FIET.
During the conference, a delegation of the delegates was received by President Tudman. As an international guest I was also invited. It was a tight almost military-organized reception. We had to stand in a row with the tips of our shoes on the carpet and the jacket buttoned. We should not look at the president directly. I found it hilarious. Something I had not experienced with other presidential and ministerial receptions. I suspect that this tight protocol was due to the fact that Tudman had been a soldier all his life.
We go back to the beginning of the year, March 1994. At the request of Secretary General Carlos Custer I visited the merger congress of the newly formed Confederacion Intersindical Galega CIG in Santiago Compostela, Spain. Neither of the two merger partners - INTG and CXTG – was a member of the WCL. According to Carlos, there were friendly relations. He expressed the hope that in the future the CIG would possibly become a member of the WCL. My presence with Véronique Rousseau, of the Department of International Affairs of ACV, and other international guests, including from Cuba, were good for the prestige of the Congress. As far as I could judge, the new CIG had no intention to join the WCL and indeed CIG has never become a member. Whether this is due to internal disagreements or organized pluralism within the trade union confederation or a question of ideological and/or financial opportunism, is always difficult to assess.
|The CIG Congress, 19 March 1994.|
About the international orientation of the CIG I did not have no illusions anymore after the adoption of the resolution against the economic blockade of Cuba by the U.S.. Not because Congress spoke out against the blockade, that was no more than usual. But what was not normal, was that the Congress at the same time did not defend trade union values as freedom of expression and association that not at all are respected by the Cuban regime. I found it strange that a trade union in a country that not so long ago was under the Franco dictatorship, did not bother to defend these important trade union values. In Cuba, a congress like the one of CIG would not even be possible.