A few weeks ago on 28-30 September, transform! network’s member Center for the Politics of Emancipation (CPE) from Belgrade, together with the Institute for Social Policy Musine Kokalari from Prishtina and the Center for Critique and Social Emancipation from Tirana, hosted the Regional Conference on Decent Work in the Western Balkans in Durres (Albania), which brought together over 20 civil society organisations (CSOs) from across the whole region representing diverse perspectives and backgrounds. The participants issued a manifesto as well as a letter adressed to the Berlin Process Summit 2023 to be held some weeks later.
Together, the participants of the conference in Durres issued the Manifesto Decent Work for the Western Balkans Region to address in common the social, economic, and labour issues faced by their countries in similar ways:
“All of our countries face the same problems: poverty, low wages, poor quality jobs, precarious and unsafe work, and dependency on foreign direct investments. In light of these challenges, we stand united in our commitment to achieving decent work for all in the Western Balkans. We firmly believe that regional cooperation and solidarity are essential to addressing these issues effectively. We call upon the governments, trade unions and companies operating in our region to join us in the struggle for living wages, better social protection, sustainable development and increased level of labor rights. Western Balkans countries should enhance regional cooperation, sharing best practices, knowledge, and resources to address common labor challenges. Regional solidarity among workers, unions, and civil society organisations is crucial to advancing decent work throughout the region.” (press release dated October 3rd)
Inclusion of labour and social rights into regional integration
In the days after the Durres conference, the participating CSOs also released a letter, dated 10 October 2023 and signed from 20 organisations, as a first joint action ahead of the 2023 Berlin Process Summit on 16 October, a gathering of leaders from the Western Balkans, the European Union, and other regional partners to discuss progress on regional cooperation and economic integration: The summit was notably expected to focus this year, among other issues, on the implementation of the Common Regional Market of the WB6 countries (the six countries of the Western Balkans that are not part of the EU: Albania, Bosna and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia).
In this public letter, the coalition demands the inclusion of labour and social rights in the agenda of the Berlin Process and into the future discussions on the common market, urging local governments, regional bodies, and the European Union to put labour and social rights on top of the agenda in the framework of further economic integration, in particular in the context of the Common Regional Market of the WB6.
“We urge our governments to take these steps to demonstrate our commitment to the well-being and dignity of our citizens and set a positive example of responsibility,” the letter concludes. “It is our sincere hope that the Common Regional Market will seize this opportunity to prioritize labour rights and social rights in its framework, creating a more just and prosperous future for all.”
After the Manifesto on Decent Work and the Joint letter, the coalition formed at the Durres conference is already willing to expand, as many other CSOs from the region have expressed the desire to join.
This information was first published on the website of the Centre for the Politics of Emancipation, (Centar za politike Emancipacije CPE), an observer organisation within the transform! network.