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The roundtable discussion "Dialogue for Change: The Creation of Social Consensus" stresses the importance of social dialogue in adopting structural reforms

Ljubljana, 25. 11. 2014 | press release

Slovenian President Borut Pahor and German Federal President Joachim Gauck today participated in a roundtable discussion entitled "Dialogue for Change: The Creation of Social Consensus", moderated by Ms Anna Prinz, German Ambassador in Ljubljana, and Ms Marta Kos Marko, Slovenian Ambassador in Berlin. The discussion was also attended by the Executive Director of Hidria, Mr Iztok Seljak, Director of Henkel Slovenia, Ms Melita Ferlež, German MEP Ms Marie-Luise Dott, and entrepreneur and Vice-President of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry for Munich and Upper Bavaria, Ms Stephanie Spinner-König, all of whom presented their views on the issue.

The roundtable highlighted the importance of social dialogue and consensus in seeking a way out of the crisis. Prime Minister Pahor emphasised that the Slovenian economy was recovering and has emerged from the crisis. According to Mr Pahor, it may be anticipated that Slovenia will be able to pave the way to a more permanent recovery after the adoption of structural reforms and be thus better prepared in the case of a recurrent crisis: "We simply must reach a compromise on the urgent structural reforms, and the importance of social dialogue in this process is invaluable," he noted, adding that "no significant progress can be made without an agreement".

The President of the Republic of Slovenia, Mr Borut Pahor, and the President of the Federal Republic of Germany, Mr Joachim Gauck.
Photo: UPRS

German President Gauck stressed that making concessions and seeking consensus are sometimes also signs of power, since as a rule not all own interests may be fully realised in the political process. He stressed the importance of mutual understanding of interests and leaving the room for manoeuvre to reach a compromise which is in the interest of both parties. He expressed his belief that smart compromise should be considered a powerful force. Those trade unions which are committed to compromise may be stronger than those who favour conflict, strikes and protests. Although demonstrations are still always possible and legitimate, a parallel solution should be sought through negotiations, said President Gauck, who recalled the actions of the major German trade unions during the financial and economic crisis and the workers’ consent to accept a temporary reduction of some of their rights in order to allow companies to survive the difficult times, keep their employees and meet the recovery well-prepared. His view was upheld by one of the leaders of the largest German umbrella trade union and the world’s largest employees’ organisation, IG Metall, Mr Wolfgang Lemba. Mr Lemba explained that they are an organisation with nearly 2.3 million members advocating for the rights of workers, but that they do not consider their actions to be in conflict with the reform interests of the state. In his opinion, the reform processes may only be successful when nobody is ultimately left behind, so their trade union is focused on searching for compromise solutions at the negotiating table.

President Pahor also called for mutual assistance on the path of compromise, so that Slovenia may return to the international stage as a model country, and highlighted the common vision as the key element, though this, he added, had been somehow lost following our accession to the European Union and the euro area, this being one of the reasons for our getting into difficulties.

Dušan Semolič, President of the Association of Free Trade Unions of Slovenia, also stressed the importance of social dialogue. According to Mr Semolič, social dialogue should be respected if we are to be successful in overcoming the problems. He added that the dialogue was difficult and even conflicting at times, but stressed that trade unions today feel that resolving the crisis is being heavily shouldered by workers, young people and pensioners, although the measures based on extreme austerity have thus far failed to yield good results. Mr Semolič said that in Slovenia, a process of redistribution of wealth in favour of capital at the expense of labour is taking place. He pointed to a high level of distrust between the social partners as one of the weaknesses.

Dušan Mramor, Minister of Finance, said that the measures for the restructuring of public spending aimed at encouraging smarter investments were indispensable, as otherwise we will be faced with a serious setback.