International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) founding Congress

Vienna, 1-3 November 2006

To be checked against delivery

I am honoured to bring the very best wishes of the European TUC to our new International Trade Union Confederation.

As many speakers have already pointed out, this is an historic occasion. I am glad and proud that the European trade union Movement has played a part, both as a template and as a midwife - if I may mix the images - in its achievement.

As a template, I think that we in the ETUC have shown the way, since 1973, in fusing together the different trade union traditions. To the good of all.

As for the midwife, if he will allow me, I would like here to pay homage to Emilio Gabaglio, my predecessor as ETUC General Secretary, for all his work in facilitating the birth of our new confederation today.

At the ICFTU Congress in Mayazaki, nearly two years ago, I pledged that the ETUC would play a part in the new architecture and would support world trade unionism to the full.

We have worked hard to meet that promise, and I think that we have succeeded.

We have managed, with good will and imagination on all sides, to engage the ETUC in the ITUC process, while preserving our essential values and autonomy.

The ETUC is neither a regional organisation nor a national centre. We negotiate autonomously working conditions of tens of millions of workers. Ours is very practical work. We are creating a European space for negotiation, expanding the international dimension of trade union work. We hope that other regions will be able to do this in the future too.

We also deal with our pooled government, with our directly elected Parliament, with our common civil service, the European Commission. We mobilise our members for equal rights and justice in the single European marketplace. We will continue to do so.

Of course, we still have much to do. Our Congress in Seville next March will be debating further steps to advance the work that we in the ETUC need to do.

At the same time, we don't belong to the Greta Garbo school of social interaction. We don't pine to be alone. It is historic that the ITUC has been established and the ETUC wants to help it, nurture it, support it as best we can without compromising our own essential role and position.

So, we too in Europe are making history.

We already have a draft text for a Constitution of a Pan-European Regional Council of the ITUC ranging from Porto to Vladivostok; from the Arctic Circle to the Central Asian steppes.

Give or take a little fine-tuning we hope to have launched our Council in the first quarter of next year.

So Europe will bring its contribution to the great endeavour you are now undertaking.

For economic and social development, for democracy, for the respect of human and trade union rights. For workers everywhere.

So I wish you; us; good luck with this great task.