Editorial of the Secretary General: Violence, the wall and EU leadership

1 Nov 2019

Editorial of the Secretary General: Violence, the wall and EU leadership

Dear colleagues, members, partners and friends,

Last week I saw a wave of firefighters´ demonstrations in Paris. Being often the first on the spot in cases of emergency, firefighters were protesting against work overload, insufficient resources, a lack of recognition and – not last – third party violence! The slogans: “Do more with less. Welcome to the firefighters” or “Stop the political contempt for firefighters!”

As we represent both firefighters and police forces, it was a particularly sad moment, when it came to clashes between these two forces. Alain Laratta, President of “Avenir Secour” called above all for more security and respect from society and politics. “Being a firefighter is the most beautiful job in the world, but we demand more recognition,” Laratta said.

Against this background, a major CESI-Conference on third party violence against public sector employee took place in Budapest. According to major research findings, “having to deal with difficult customers, patients, pupils etc. are the major risk factors which lead to third party violence”. As a consequence, the public sector is particularly exposed.

In Budapest, more than 130 trade unionists have raised awareness for the problem, and have expressed clear political and legislative demands. “It is not only about our members and their interest representation. It is about society as a whole. We have to understand that safety, education, health and the common good, in general, is in all our interest.

“Violence against those delivering these services is an attack against us all and each one of us personally”, CESI-President Romain Wolff stated in a joint press conference with the Hungarian trade union MKKS and the new mayor of Budapest, Gergely Karacsony.

CESI will launch an EU-wide campaign in the aftermath of the conference on tools, demands and messages. #NoViolenceAtWork 

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This November 9th, Germany is celebrating the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. A big moment, not only for the Germans.

On the 11th of November 1989, I took the car and drove with friends from Bonn to Berlin. Although the big party was already over, the feeling was still historic. Open border controls, Trabbies in West Berlin, (Western) shops empty, East German friends crossing borders.

And now?

Although a long time ago, divergences between East and West are still strongly felt. East-Germany is lagging behind economically, many areas suffer from major brain-drain and the emigration of young people, and last but not least not few East Germans still feel like second class citizens.

Added to this comes general political sclerosis, with an extremely weakened Chancellor Merkel at the head of the big coalition government.

So alas, just at this very historic moment, Germany appears to be the sick man of Europe.

With the UK leaving and Merkel has become a “lame duck”, French President Macron is trying to step into the political vacuum.

With verve and enthusiasm, but, according to the NYT, also like a bull in a China shop.

Maybe true. As I wrote recently, compromises are at the very heart and essence of the European project. So bullying does not fit in.

But exceptional times require exceptional measures. And at the moment, a strong leadership may prove itself better for the European project than timid and erratic wavering EU policies.

In a recent discussion with an old friend, I expressed my concerns about the future of the EU and its survival. His laconic reply was simply: “It´s not the EU.  It´s the world.”

Also true.

So as I don’t like self-fulfilling prophecies, especially the apocalyptic ones – regardless whether they refer to climate change or to the demise of the EU – I raise my head: Let´s be honest, we are not doing so bad.