The increasing influence of nationalist movements in Europe does not only have an impact on social rights, but at the same time, trade unions are frequently a thorn in the flesh of these forces. This current political trend is in particular dangerous for the media and journalists. AK EUROPA and ÖGB Europabüro used these developments as an opportunity to discuss the multi-layered consequences for workers within the framework of an event on February 18th 2019. On this occasion, Prof. Joachim Becker for the first time introduced his current study “Neo-nationalism in the EU” in Brussels.
To begin with, Prof. Joachim Becker introduced the key results in his recent study “Neo-nationalism in the EU”, which was published by the AK. In particular, he referred to the three tendencies by neo-nationalist parties and explained the different positions on trade unions and their impact on society associated with them. The study shows that the socio-economic aims and the practice of neo-nationalist right-wing parties have a tendency to be negative for workers and frequently weaken labour organisations and representations. He also focussed on the importance of strengthening rural regions, as particularly these areas have suffered under globalisation and de-industrialisation; in his opinion, there is certainly a need for action to restore confidence in the representative organisations.
Renate Schroeder, European Federation of Journalists, described the change in tone by right-wing government representatives, who often talked about journalists using abusive language and attacked them verbally. She specifically mentioned the latest attacks of the FPÖ against the ORF and the verbal attacks against journalists by the Austrian Home Secretary. In this context, she also mentioned the danger of censorship using the examples of Hungary and Poland as well as the violence against journalists, which sadly culminated in the murders of the Slovak journalist Ján Kuciak and his Maltese colleague Daphne Caruana Galizia. In her opinion, the people’s lack of trust can only be restored by trustworthy representative organisations and independent journalism. Apart from that, challenges, which are associated with migration, have to be addressed openly.
Károly György, International Secretary of the National Confederation of Hungarian Trade Unions, described the situation in Hungary. Even though democracy existed formally, all state organs would be loyal to Orbán. Apart from that, approximately 95 % of all media are in the hand of the Prime Minister, which had wiped out media pluralism. In addition, there had been a constant search for enemy stereotypes: first the banking system, then the EU, followed by Roma and the poorer population, then migrants and most recently George Soros. He also described the aim of the Hungarian government to re-establish the traditional understanding of roles concerning women in society.
Sophia Reisecker, Head of the Department Europe, Corporations and International Relationships of the Union of Private Sector Employees, Printing, Journalism and Paper, pointed out that the rights of workers, trade unions and citizens were under threat from neo-nationalist governments. The Austrian government would try to use subjects such as gold-plating to reduce labour law and social protection conditions. She also commented that the government was abolishing social partnership standards, for example by cutting the options of submitting comments and opinions in case of review procedures. In particular marginalised groups, the unemployed and women would suffer under this policy. In addition, the government relied on “lively and entertaining” reporting, whereby opposing journalistic opinions were deliberately attacked as propaganda or “Fake News” – verbally or juristically. In order to strengthen the position of trade unions, collective bargaining at national level was an important instrument, which had to be developed and strengthened. Trade unions and labour representations had to mutually learn from each other at transnational level and put up resistance when rights were restricted. Popular issues could be used at EU level to counteract this development, for example cross-border taxation and unfair redistribution.