Addressing an international trade union conference on Thursday, Veselin Mitov, International Secretary of the Podkrepa Confederation of Labour, said employment is one of the weak spots of the countries of the Western Balkans. There is a large informal sector, a brain drain and depopulation of those countries; for instance, Kosovo has a 60% informal sector, he said.
Mitov identified the exodus of all kinds of workers as one of the main problems of Bulgaria and the Western Balkans.
The conference organized by the Podkrepa trade union is about decent employment and social security in the Western Balkans and the transition from regional specifics to a common European future. The conference will focus on the EU’s policies – the new package of measures in support of the Western Balkans as a future-oriented instrument and the green and digital transition.
Trade union representatives from the Western Balkan countries are attending the event.
Bulgarian Industrial Association (BIA) Vice President Mariya Mincheva said BIA supports the EU accession of the countries of the Western Balkans with the utmost conviction. The Balkans are missing opportunities and are not tapping the potential of a regional market: “We are still driven by the past and not by the future.” In her view, employers and trade unions have a key role to play in a country’s accession to the EU.
Podkrepa President Dimitar Manolov said the countries of the Western Balkans are in a phase of specific political developments. For instance, Bulgaria is holding local elections. “Still, what is more important to us as trade unionists is the start of the drafting of the 2024 state budget. We once again reaffirm our position [in favour of] the accession process of the Western Balkans.”
Bulgaria’s Employment Agency Executive Director Smilen Valov said staff shortages and rising labour costs were among the biggest challenges for employers.
Konstantin Stoychev, advisor to the Labour and Social Policy Minister, and Economic and Social Council President Zornitsa Rusinova also addressed the participants.