Cross-border trade union cooperation: Preserving independence

18 Nov 2013

CESI President Romain Wolff held working consultations with the Hungarian Civil Servants and Public Employees Trade Union (MKKSV), a member organisation of the CESI. Political developments in Hungary and Luxembourg and the variety of ways in which trade unions operate in both EU states were the key issues discussed during the recent three-day working visit of Mr Romain Wolff in Hungary. Mr Wolff is the General Secretary of the General Confederation of the Civil Service (CGFP) in Luxembourg and president of CESI. Mr Wolff was accompanied by Steve Heiliger, head of public relations of the CGFP.

Cross-border trade union cooperation: Preserving independence

CGFP and MKKS are both member organisations of the CESI. Since Mr Wolff took over the CESI’s presidency last December, CGFP and MKKS have been working more closely at the European level. The context of the discussions was formed by the establishment of a Chamber of Civil Servants and by the merging and centralization of local government offices in Hungary.

Regarding the political situation in Hungary, the Conservative party Fidesz and its leader Viktor Orbàn won 2010 landslide victory in parliamentary election, gaining a two-thirds majority. In 2011, this Government agreed to amend media laws, seriously restricting freedom of the press and freedom of expression. In the same year, the Parliament approved a controversial new election law that halves the number of MPs and redraws constituency boundaries. Critics objected that it tilts the system in favour of the governing national Fidesz party. Many professional organisations and the political opposition are looking forward to the forthcoming parliamentary elections, hoping to see a political change next year.

During the meeting in Budapest with the chairman of the new Hungarian Chamber of Civil Servants, many parallels were drawn with the institutional landscape in Luxembourg, where such chambers represent and defend the interests of the various professional groups. There, these chambers have to be consulted on legal texts of their concern, before they can be voted in the parliament. Membership in the chambers is mandatory for professionals belonging to one of these groups.

The risks of massive centralization in Hungary

By the example of the region around the university city of Pécs, about 200 km from Budapest, the CESI-president could see the results of the recent politico-territorial reorganization first-hand and the redrawing of administrative boundaries in Hungary. Now, citizens can rely on only 1 of the 19 regional “government offices” in Hungary to carry out all, or part of, their administrative formalities, such as asking for a birth certificate.

During discussions between the delegations, the risks and hazards associated with this reform of public administration in Hungary became particularly evident: while setting up these regional “government offices”, many local authorities were closed. CESI President Romain Wolff expressed his concern that this bundling of competencies often has considerable negative effects, such as resulting in massive job losses. From the point of view of trade unions, this is unacceptable. With citizens now having to accept long commutes to complete their formalities, other problems from the infrastructure and the transport point of view are more evident. Massive conurbations could spawn nearby the 19 regional “government offices”, making the prices for land in these areas increase unreasonably.

Following the visit, the CESI President declared: “The reform efforts in regional public administration should benefit simultaneously the citizens and the concerned public servants. Employees in should benefit in a long term approach through more job stability and better opportunities for career advancement. If civil servants are to be paid according to their performance, it is a question of objective, clear and fair assessment as evaluation criteria”.