The experiences of other countries can help us when it comes to social and economic reforms in the Western Balkans and strengthening the role of the syndicates in that process. The biggest potential in strengthening this role is the cooperation with non – governmental organizations – it is the conclusion of the conference The Role of the Syndicates in Social and Economic Reforms organized jointly by the Friedrich Ebert Foundation and the Social and Economic Forum of European Movement in Serbia.
The participants have stated together that the syndicates’ courage is in defensive. The change of economic paradigm on the global level has significantly affected the transformation of the syndicates and their role in the social – economic reforms and transition. The countries of mass production have been particularly pointed out to the countries of the Western Balkans as an example of good practice and direction in which the Western Balkans countries can take their social – economic reforms. What has also been emphasized is the political clientelism which affects syndicates and their relation towards broader social interests and the relations among them. The syndicates need new strategic block and union with other special interest groups in order to strengthen their own visibility and social activity.
In his introduction, president of the Foundation, Max Brändle, said that the organization had its office in Serbia for 20 years and has been working in strengthening social democracy in Serbia and region.
„I believe that the experience of transition of East Germany can help Serbia and contribute to the process”, said Brändle.
Vice president of European Movement in Serbia, Jelica Minić, stated that the good recipe would be exploring possible solutions in the experiences of others and following the activities of syndicates in the countries of mass production.
Analyzing the articles of the expert scientific magazines that write about syndicates, Minić has pointed out that the framework that has been offered in the purpose of strengthening the syndicates’ role through structure, association, institutions and social power, specifically accentuating the connection with other special interest groups and creating alliances that can help them strengthen their position.
The researcher of the Labor Studies Centre of the Central European University in Budapest, Tibor Mesman, thinks that the reforms should come from production process and social life. In his analysis, Mesman spoke about countries of Central and Eastern Europe highlighting that their global suppliers share is poor. He noticed the post-Fordism capital accumulation when the production becomes subjectified and the capital of the production of Central and Eastern Europe countries enters crisis.
„The development of the syndicates is not equal, but it is in decline”, Mesman rated.
The vice president of the Union of syndicates of Serbia, Duško Vuković, thinks that the countries on the outskirts of capitalism have a harder time dealing with social dialog and social contracts.
He believes that we should admit we are an unsuccessful society in crisis sharing the fate of change and transition that came to arrogant and predatory privatization.
„The syndicates don’t have a plan B as an answer to political monolog and exclusion in that sense”, he adds.
The professor at The Faculty of Economics in Belgrade, Mihail Arandarenko, when speaking about syndicates, said that they are found in between two paradoxes. The first one is that their position has never been weaker than today because of the longstanding influence of trends and familiar processes that developed during the economic transition of Serbia.
The second paradox refers to the bigger than ever space for expanding and strengthening their influence. He considers that the participation in the syndicates is not improving, just like their reputation in research on the perception of the citizens. He mentioned France and its small syndicates that can move wider masses as a sample case. Arandarenko emphasized internal and external tensions that syndicates are facing, especially the tensions of wider social interests and specific goals that are the strongest in public sector and tensions of the members and managers of the syndicates.
The president of the syndicate UGS „Nezavisnot” Zoran Stojiljković, pointed out on the importance of starting a discussion, specifically highlighting the consideration of basic strategies of the syndicate action. Stojiljković sees the poor power of syndicate in Serbia in the mix of corporate capital dominance in its predatory form and political clientelism that is fighting for control of the public sector.
As an obstacle to the development of syndicate organization, he pointed out political clientelism and party employment, which disables the social mobility and dialog. According to Stojiljkovic, the space for the greatest progress is in the syndicates’ cooperation with non-governmental organizations.