Sunday, January 4, 2015

THE DOWNFALL OF THE WCL 44 ( about Leo Tindemans)

From left to right: Leo Tindemans (Minister President of Belgium and President of the Christian Democratic People's Part EPP), Heiner Geissler (Secretary general of the German Christian democratic Party CDU) and Helmut Kohl (President of the CDU) during the first Congress of the EPP in Brussels in 1978.

Leo Tindemans recently deceased on December 26 at the age of 92. He has been twice Belgian prime minister (1974-1978). In the European elections of 1979 he received the highest number of preferential votes ever reached in the history of Belgium. From 1976 to 1986 he was chairman of the Christian Democratic European People's Party EPP. For ten years he was also a member of the European Parliament (1989 -1999).

What the Belgian and European Christian democratic politician Leo Tindemans has to do with the history of the WCL? Nothing really, but that's precisely the problem. Before the WCL Congress in Mauritius (1993), I contacted Tindemans - as requested by WCL General Secretary Carlos Custer- to ask him if he wanted to held a speech on the WCL seminar prior to the WCL Congress about the role and significance of the European Union for European workers and for the World in general. Also, the question was whether he wanted to support the WCL in obtaining European funds for the seminar in order to reduce the cost of the Congress.

State Funeral of the Belgian Politician Leo Tindemans on January 3, 2015 in Edegem, a village not far from the city of Antwerp.

I was surprised how easy it was to make an appointment with Tindemans. We had a pleasant conversation which showed that he wanted to cooperate with the WCL. I was glad with this result. This could be the start of the kind of work that by many people of the WCL was expected I would do after I was appointed as Confederal Secretary of WCL, namely to organize political and financial support for the WCL on European level. But when ACV / CSC chairman Willy Peirens, also WCL president, heard about these plans, to my surprise, he wanted to know nothing of further contacts with Tindemans. According to his staff (Peirens himself never talked with me about this) because in the past the ACV/CSC had several conflicts with him.

I believe this was an irrelevant argument because I did not speak Tindemans as a Belgian politician but as a very important European politician of a country that at that time also had the presidency of the European Union. Moreover, since when unions do not want to meet politicians with whom they have conflicts? Such an attitude destroys all possibilities of a social dialogue.

Apparently my arguments did not convince him. The ACV/CSC wanted no more contacts with Belgian politicians who played a role on European level. When later on also cooperation between WCL and EZA (Europäisch Zentrum Arbeitnehmer - European Center for Workers), which offers European subsidies for European seminars for workers, was blocked by the WCL President, it became clear to me that the WCL was cut off from every kind of political and financial support of the European Union. About why I had no idea. In the case of EZA this was very special and certainly remarkable because at that time CNV former General Secretary Arie Hordijk, a staunch ally of the WCL, was elected chairman of the EZA. Moreover, the ACW (the general Christian workers association of which ACV / CSC is the main organization) was a member of EZA and as such represented in the Executive Committee of EZA.

Why then this blockade? Had it something to do with my position at the WCL? Indeed, the ACV/ CSC had voted against my appointment to WCL Confederal Secretary on the WCL Executive Committee meeting in Gdansk, Poland (1991). Or was it possible that the ACV had made (secret) agreements about EZA and Europe with the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC)? It was well known that the ETUC opposed strongly the EZA, because in their view EZA received European subsidies that belonged to the ETUC. Or was it a political conflict because EZA was founded by Christian Democrats and as such was supported by the European Christian Democratic Party (EPP of which Leo Tindemans was an important member) while the ETUC majority was socialist oriented?Or was it possible that the ACV / CSC was blackmailed by ETUC that once the WCL would dare to interfere in European politics, Willy Peirens would lose his position as one of the directors of the ETUC?

Even more remarkable is that with the arrival of Willy Thys as Secretary General of the WCL, suddenly collaboration with the EZA was possible. Why this radical change in policy? That question was never answered. Maybe that once will be written also this chapter of the WCL history.

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