NIS consultative meeting on European Neighbourhood Policies, Eastern Partnership, Association and Deep Comprehensive Free Trade Agreements

In the framework of the joint project with Union To Union (Sweden) PERC organized a consultative meeting on European Neighbourhood Policies, Eastern Partnership, Association and Deep Comprehensive Free Trade Agreements in Brussels on 20-22 of May. Leaders and experts from ITUC affiliates in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine took part in the meeting.

Anita Ryszan from the EU DG NEAR explained the eastern neighbourhood policies of the EU and related processes and challenges. She informed about EaP cooperation priorities for the six countries, and implementation of this cooperation via European Neighbourhood Instrument. The consultative process to review the ENP policies was presented (

Luc Devigne from DG trade spoke about DCFTA processes with Moldova, Georgia and Belarus and the opportunities for social partners to use and to contribute to these processes. First, chapter 13 of the agreements speaks about trade and sustainable development (labour and environment) and the need to respect (in law and in practice) international standards, including ILO norms. Secondly, an inclusive consultative and monitoring mechanism should be established, which should include employers and workers organisations – from the EU and the respective countries.

Richard Pond outlined EPSU priorities in EaP processes which should not be a EU austerity policies expert. It should be about fundamental rights and social values, supporting cooperation and consultations, social dialog, building quality public services instead of outsourcing them to private sector.

Martin Hutsebaut, a pension expert working for European trade unions informed about different pension systems in EU countries and their interlinkage with taxation and collective bargaining processes. Martin Myant, ETUI economist, informed about ETUC economic policies. The EU suffered longer than other region from the crisis because of wrong policies of austerities. The new commission gave two messages: common market, private enterprise and activities in common market and prices and social development to poor regions. Unfortunately, social side was downgraded was neglected in different processes, including enlargement and the neighbouring countries should avoid similar mistakes.

Tom Jenkins from the ETUC presented ETUC involvement in different EU trade agreement processes. While the agreements are legal documents, the EU does not apply a system of sanctions who do not respect standards. There is a need to make sure that investors not only have protection, but also have duties therefore there are references on OECD guideline on MNEs.

The participants discussed the situation in all six countries. Particular attention was put on the AA/DCFTA processes in Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova. It was noted that civil society engagement was misled by certain NGOs that seek to undermine role of social partners in civil society consultative platforms.

In the closing session the participants discussed with the ITUC Deputy General Secretary Jaap Wienen ITUC priorities and actions in the region, as well as the specific situations in each of the country involved. Specific attention was put on the situation in Ukraine, both in terms of consequences of military conflict for workers and their families and in terms of economic hardships and ignorance by the government interests of workers and their unions.

Participants agreed to structure their cooperation in the work for next years on two levels: a policy defining leadership exchange and coordination and on expert level for developing understanding and policy ideas in the process of implementation of the AA/DCFTA agreements. These structures and activities will be designed in inclusive manner to allow efficient participation of trade unions from other countries the region as well as in the broader Eastern Neighbourhood policy of the EU. Ideas were exchanged and coordinated for all NIS organisations to contribute jointly to the consultation procedure on the ENP announced by the European Commission and the European/internatinal ones to match it with their own contribution.