Belgian prime minister supports NGOs’ call for decent work

14 October 2014

Source: Philippine Daily Inquirer (Philippines)
Source type: Others
Published on: 05 Oct 2010

BRUSSELS, Belgium--Belgian Prime Minister Yves Leterme has expressed his support for civil society's call that the countries of the Asia Europe Meeting (Asem) commit to core labor standards, the creation of decent jobs, social dialogue, and social protection.


In his interaction with participants of the Asia-Europe People's Forum (AEPF), which submitted to him their recommendations to the Asem leaders, Leterme said: "The key factor is getting enough space and empowering trade unions and associations of workers throughout the countries."
He said the role of trade unions has been critical in the evolution of a pro-people socio-economic system in Europe, particularly in Belgium.

"In the history of my country, during the industrial revolution, from that moment on, trade unions became active. People were entitled and succeeded in fighting collectively," the prime minister said.

"I am a strong believer of trade unions and social dialogue, more specifically on the role of trade unions in the new economic architecture and in countries of Asem," he added.

But Leterme said the proposed changes of civil society on decent work cannot be taken up all at the same time, but in a "step by step way" from issues like labor disputes, social safety nets, and migrant workers.

The Belgian prime minister said the topic of decent work would become "important in coming periods when fundamental standard rights may become part of the negotiations on free trade agreements."

He noted how globalization is changing the nature of relations among countries.

"Anyway, in future, we will have a situation where the global problems will be tackled in global level using global means, global financial means and global budget. Problem is we are losing time today, at this very moment," he said.

On the other issues raised by the civil society in the one-hour dialogue, Leterme welcomed the "strong" message on the global financial crisis.

"I am grateful for your strong message and for the important signal it gives to the civil society and also to the people that they know what happens in the Asem summit. It is Important that your message is put forward so that people will understand that Asem is not only about big money, big economy, or economic issues but it is also about the people," he said.

"I share your ambitions. We have to curb some of the very negative evolutions of the last couple of decades, more specifically the last three years," he added.

Economic growth and globalization must be "positive for more people, must benefit all."

Leterme noted that Europe's social evolution was such that people gradually gained more social rights. He said the social model that has evolved in Western Europe has enabled people to profit from economic progress.

He said the idea is to create a global social model that is sustainable.

Of the crisis that is plaguing some member-states of the European Union, he said the budget cuts and deficit cuts must be made that they will not harm economic growth and that they will be arrived at with continuing dialogues with the people.

Leterme also supported the civil society's proposal to impose a transaction tax on security and big transactions that could endanger the financial system.

He said the law already exists in Belgium and he will make a push for this in the Asem. He noted that the idea gets more support from Europe than from Asia.

Asem is a forum for dialogue among the 47 countries in Europe and Asia, while AEPF is the parallel civil society forum which presents its recommendations to the Asem leaders. Although an informal grouping, Asem is a strategic forum where the direction and tone of Asia-Europe relations are established.

-by Veronica Uy, Global Nation