Meeting of the TU Network of Economic Experts for SEE and NIS countries “Influence of the digitalisation on the labour market, energy, and green economy, system of fair taxation”

A meeting of TU Network of Economic Experts for SEE and NIS countries was held on 30-31 October 2023 in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina on the topic “Influence of digitalization on labour market, energy, and green economy, system of fair taxation” in framework of ITUC-PERC support project of the Swedish “Union-to-Union”.

Trade union economic experts from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, North Macedonia, Montenegro, Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine took part in the meeting. In cooperation with the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung a special session on “Fair taxation” was organised on 30 October with remote participation of other PERC organizations, as regional contribution to the global trade union TAX Forum.

Prof. dr. Bruno Sergi, a mentor of the Network, gave presentation “Influence of digital era on labour market and trade unions”, followed exchange about national situations, advantages and concerns of the trade unions in reference to the introduction of digitalization. The experts have particularly highlighted the challenges of the platform workers, their employment status, their problems to join trade unions, their social rights and the right to OHS. Economic experts have also underlined the advantages of introduction of new technologies and digitalisation – particularly in public sector – facilitated services for citizens.

Within this Sarajevo meeting, an ITUC/ PERC – FES TAX Forum meeting in hybrid mode was organised Owen Tudor – ITUC Deputy Secretary General highlighted the link between taxation and equality in the context of New Social Contract. Ms. Séverine PICARD, Director of Progressive Policies presented the state of play in taxation policies and global trade union priorities in the coming period to reach the fair taxation. Distribution of tax is particularly unfair in the Western Balkans, which heavily relies on VAT and social insurance contribution, borne by employees more than employers. On the other hand, revenues from major turnover and capital are quite protected. Matthieu Méaulle from ETUC has presented the EU Agenda: European Directive on Minimum Tax Rate.

The meeting continued with the discussion on taxation policies at national level, which is in focus, namely income tax, consumption tax, property tax, wealth tax, capital profit tax, profit tax, financial transaction tax, etc. This session was moderated by Daniel Kostzer – ITUC expert from Brussels – Economic Department. Experts talked about the processes of amendments in the taxation policies in their respective countries. In Serbia the high taxes foster unregistered work, so that the income tax was gradually decreased from 14% to 10%; Government planned to increase direct, decrease indirect taxes, and introduce progressive rates. Trade unions argue that the system has to be tax efficient and socially fair. In Moldova some taxation system reform processes are also in progress aimed at re-introduction of more progressive rates. In Georgia the progressive rates have not yet been introduced. In Ukraine all the processes are under the influence of war and national mobilization. In Montenegro the Government project “Europe Now” brought some major changes in the taxation system and polices, some tax reliefs, including progressive tax rates. In North Macedonia and Bosnia and Herzegovina some positive changes in taxation policies occurred.

In “Energy and Green Economy” session prof. Sergi highlighted that the green energy was becoming a top-theme in all the Western Balkan countries, where the states were trying to implement green transition projects for sustainable production of energy to better cope with dependency on procurement of energy from abroad. All the countries have their transition plans, aimed at creation of renewable energy sources, there are certain government support programmes aimed at achieving energy efficiency, but the trade unions are mainly not included in these processes. Participants have stated that the energy transition requires huge costs, that the governments do not have those budgets for transition and that the EU support is needed, also in a view of importance of energy security in relation to global security and the security of all countries.

Daniel Kostzer has presented a topic “Sustainable development – possibilities and the role of trade unions” to emphasize the relevance of New Social Contract for the political, social and economic sustainability. The fundamental pillars of New Social Contract are jobs, rights of workers, decent wages, social protection, equality, inclusion, and the adoption of this Contract is an institutional process.

Participants prioritized discussing the following in future meetings: changing national wages setting policies in social dialog processes by building “decent wages” / living wages approaches, reforms of national taxation policies, digitalization as a process for economic transformation, social and economic rights of platform workers.

ITUC/ PERC SEE TU Office, Sarajevo