Congress Swiss Federation of Trade Unions.
To be checked against delivery
On behalf of the ETUC, I have pleasure in wishing you a happy birthday on your 125th anniversary. It is a pleasure to bring greetings to one of Europe’s oldest unions and in a country which is discovering how to win referendums on Europe. This last skill is one that some of the rest of us are keen to learn.
The Swiss referendum result on Schengen was good news for Europe at a time when much of the news has been difficult.
We are wrestling with high unemployment and slow growth in too many of our countries.
We are struggling to get acceptance of a new constitutional treaty which will make the working of the EU more effective - although only 2 have rejected it and 13 countries have ratified it. We need that treaty and need it soon.
We have some indigestion with the accession of 10 new member states, and we are seeing more resistance to the development of the single market, especially where proper labour standards are not fully protected.
Nevertheless, Europe remains the great adventure that it has been since the original Coal and Steel Community in 1951 - an exciting project originally to heal the wounds of old enemies. And its new project today is to tame globalisation by helping working people cope with change. New countries are queuing up to join and the potential is huge.
Switzerland has a unique history of neutrality from the storms of Europe but it has a shared interest in a successful Europe and good relations between its neighbours.
So I welcome the contribution you make to the ETUC. I hope you find it useful and productive to your work in this country and outside this country. 1880 was a year of turmoil and pain in Europe. Working people were generally very poor, lived in poverty, did not live long on average, and many emigrated to the New World.
We have come a long way since then - in Switzerland and Europe - and fundamental to that great journey of progress, that voyage of struggle and achievement, has been the European trade union movement.
So today, we honour the past and our forefathers and foremothers. But more than that, we pledge to continue the fights for justice, peace, democracy, workers rights and free and independent trade unions.
If I had a glass in my hand, I would toast the USS for its achievements but most of all, I would toast the future. May the next 125 years be as remarkable as those long years since 1880.
Congratulations and a successful future.
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