Greek social partners react to Yugoslavia conflict
On 2 April 1999, Greek trade unions (GSEE and ADEDY) and employers' organisations (GSEVEE and ESEE) organised an unprecedented joint action against the war in Yugoslavia, including a two-hour work stoppage. Meanwhile, GSEE took international-level initiatives aimed at finding a solution and ending the military intervention.
The NATO bombing of Yugoslavia in the crisis over Kosovo has prompted various initiatives by the social partners in nearby Greece.
On 1 April 1999, the governing bodies of the Greek General Confederation of Labour (GSEE), the Confederation of Public Servants (ADEDY), the General Confederation of Greek Small Businesses and Trades (GSEVEE) and the National Confederation of Greek Traders (ESEE} held a press conference on the subject of "joint actions and initiatives on the crisis in Yugoslavia". At the meeting, the four organisations' governing bodies announced that they had decided to call a two-hour nationwide work stoppage for 2 April, during which all shops, small businesses and professional offices would also be closed. During the stoppage, delegations from the four social partner organisations visited the offices of the United Nations Organisation in Athens, and delivered a joint resolution calling for:
- an immediate end to the bombing of Yugoslavia;
- an immediate resumption of the dialogue to find a solution by political and diplomatic avenues; and
- a solution to the problem in the framework of international law and respect for human rights by maintaining the existing borders of the area's sovereign independent states.
The resolution places particular emphasis on the need for the UN to take initiatives, in keeping with the objectives for which it was founded and which it works towards, in order to stop military operations in Yugoslavia. GSEE, ADEDY, GSEVEE and ESEE also called on all citizens to take an active part in the initiatives they had undertaken to provide humanitarian aid to the suffering non-combatant population, mainly involving financial assistance for the purchase of foodstuffs and pharmaceuticals.
The joint anti-war action taken by the employers' organisations and trade unions was described as "unprecedented by Greek standards". This is the first time that peak organisations of labour and management in Greece have jointly called nationwide general strike action.
Meanwhile, on 29 March, GSEE addressed a letter to the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) calling on the European trade union movement to intervene to help find a solution and stop the military operations in Yugoslavia.
In particular, GSEE proposed that ETUC bring pressure to bear on European governments, aimed at: stopping the bombing in Yugoslavia; going forward with a peaceful settlement of the problems in the area; and maintaining existing borders in the Balkans. This GSEE position was communicated to the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU) as well as national union confederations of the European countries. In addition, GSEE addressed a letter to the union confederations of France and Italy proposing a meeting of the three countries in Rome for the purpose of coordinating efforts to stop the NATO bombings in Yugoslavia and continue diplomatic initiatives for the resolution of the area's problems.
The ETUC general secretary, Emilio Gabaglio, convened an emergency meeting on the Kosovo crisis in Brussels on 8 April. As well as ETUC member national confederations and European industry federations, other participants included representatives of ICFTU and of the International Federation of Journalists. During the meeting, delegates from ETUC member organisations mainly discussed the situation which had been created in Yugoslavia and the refugee issue, with GSEE analysing the situation in Serbia and its neighbouring countries on the basis of the positions it had forwarded to ETUC. Following the meeting, Mr Gabaglio addressed a message to the European Council on. The message stated that the 8 April meeting "confirmed the position taken by the ETUC that the military intervention has been rendered inevitable in the light of the repressive action of the Belgrade regime against the Kosovar people now escalated into an ethnic cleansing strategy. The ETUC remains convinced however that all possible steps must be taken and all possibilities explored to reopen negotiations in the view of a political solution to the conflict. In this respect the ETUC believes that the European Union has a moral and political obligation to take the lead in such a process."