ETUC celebrates the enlargement of the European Union on May day 2004

Brussels, 27/04/2004

The European Trade Union Confederation warmly welcomes the 10 new Member States joining the European Union on 1 May.The ETUC is demanding strong political action to improve social and employment standards in the new Member States, so that all 455 million citizens of the wider Union can benefit fully from enlargement.

“We must develop and strengthen the trade union movement in these countries in order to develop better welfare systems, rights for workers, and the participation of citizens in policies for growth and economic development,” declared ETUC General Secretary John Monks. “This is our strategy: not to construct new walls across Europe, but to reinforce democratic institutions.”

The ETUC has welcomed EU enlargement as a historic and unmissable opportunity to bring together the peoples of Europe around the fundamental values of democracy, peace and freedom. It will mark the end, at last, of the painful divisions that have split the continent since the conclusion of the Second World War.

However, the ETUC warns that efforts to establish a Social Europe, with good quality services, equal opportunities, and social justice and protection must intensify if integration is to become a reality. Ongoing inequalities such as higher unemployment and lower pay in the incoming Member States cannot be allowed to persist in a fair and stable European Union. The establishment of a real social dialogue of collective bargaining and of social concertation practices is cardinally important. The ETUC will make efforts to involve applicant country trade unions more closely in the European social dialogue and in negotiations whose outcomes will form part of the Community acquis.

Freedom of movement for workers is one of the internal markets four fundamental freedoms. “The ETUC supports free movement for workers and, if transition periods are deemed necessary, they should be kept to the minimum” added John Monks. “We reject nationalist paranoia about free movement. Instead, we welcome people from the new Member States, and are working together to boost economic and social development in their own countries, as well as in the EU generally. The ETUC is also adamantly opposed to a selective introduction of free movement for highly-skilled workers, which undermines the economic potential of the applicant countries.

The ETUC already has trade union affiliates in all the new Member States, as well as other countries in Central and Eastern Europe. In total, it covers 77 organisations in 35 countries. ETUC leaders will be joining many of the celebrations to mark enlargement around Europe.

- General Secretary John Monks will join Italian trade unions for May Day celebrations on the border of the old and new EU, between Gorizia and Nova Gorica in Slovenia.

- Deputy General Secretary Maria Helena André will take part in the Irish EU Presidency event in Dublin, with the Irish Congress of Trade Unions.

- Deputy General Secretary Reiner Hoffmann will be at the German DGB's Job Parade in Schwerin.

- Confederal Secretaries Joel Decaillon and Jozef Niemiec will join rallies in Dusseldorf and London.

Enlargement signifies investing in the common future of the peoples of Europe. The ETUC is delighted that it can contribute to this historic event.

Resolution on Enlargement 17-18 March 2004