The dialogue with Mr Timmermans was the final event in a series of Roundtable discussions on Just Transition of Heavy Industry in Central and Eastern Europe organised by industriAll Europe, together with the ITUC’s Just Transition Center, that began in late November 2020, to address the specific concerns of trade unions managing the decarbonisation process in the energy-intensive and energy sectors. 

The industry in Eastern European countries is predominantly reliant on fossil fuels, and the share of employment in energy-intensive sectors is particularly high. GDP per capita is comparatively lower than in other European countries. The comparative advantage attracting investments to the region greatly depended on low labour costs, but the region risks losing out during the transition due to new, more attractive locations with access to the low-carbon infrastructure (such as CCS, H2, renewable energies and infrastructure) shared with other industrial facilities, that are not readily available in the CEE region.

The challenge is massive for the trade unions. Next to the problems of attracting investments in decarbonisation technologies and infrastructure in their region, they are also fighting against the erosion of Social Dialogue and comprehensive trade union involvement in national and regional strategies. Moreover, many of the countries have been witnessing a migration of qualified young people outside of the countries, seeking better employment opportunities and quality of life.

The Recovery Fund and other funding programmes, like the Just Transition Mechanism, the Innovation Fund and the Modernisation Fund, will bring substantial means to the region that, if based on comprehensive transition strategies, have the potential to maintain and create good employment in sustainable industries at regional and local level.

Planning the green recovery and Just Transition to a low-carbon industrial production needs to be based on comprehensive Social Dialogue and strong trade unions in the region. The European Green Deal must not divide Europe – by creating a rich, sustainable industrial Europe and another Europe, with regions left behind. The Green Deal must unite Europe and give a fair chance to Central Eastern European Countries to modernise and shape a better future for the younger generations.

The trade unions from Central Eastern Europe highly appreciated the exchange and are looking forward to continuing the dialogue with the European Commission Executive Vice-President.

Luc Triangle, General Secretary of industriAll Europe said “We need to reinforce social dialogue in the region. We need comprehensive job creation and transformation plans and we also need massive investments for Central Eastern Europe, to help them make the transition a story of growth and cohesion”.

Judith Kirton-Darling, Deputy General Secretary of industriAll Europe added “Delivering on a Just Transition will be crucial for workers in Central and Eastern Europe. No transition can be considered as ‘just’ if it doesn’t deliver on the social dimension. Now is the time to assure that the principle of ‘no worker or region should be left behind’ will be a reality in Central and Eastern Europe.”

Contact: Andrea Husen-Bradley (press and communication), Corinna Zierold (senior policy adviser)