Press Releases S&D Group: Zero tolerance for slave-like working conditions in Serbia and violations of protest rights!

S&D Group: Zero tolerance for slave-like working conditions in Serbia and violations of protest rights!

On the initiative of the Socialists and Democrats, the European Parliament today discussed workers’ rights violations in Serbia, notably the forced labour in the Chinese Linglong tyre factory. There have been serious reports about the inhumane working conditions of 500 Vietnamese workers, allegedly victims of human trafficking.

The resolution, which is set to be adopted later today, urges the Serbian authorities to ensure labour rights are respected and to improve the country’s alignment with EU labour laws.
It also expresses deep worries by the corruption, disregard for the rule of law and the general lack of transparency and environmental and social impact assessments for infrastructure projects, with many Chinese investments and loans, as well as money from multinational companies such as Rio Tinto.

Finally, it also urges the Serbian authorities to properly address the increasing violence by extremist and hooligan groups against peaceful environmental and civil society demonstrations.

Tonino Picula, S&D MEP and spokesperson on foreign affairs, said:

“It is a shame that we have to speak about slave labour and human trafficking in a country aspiring to join the EU. What an irony, that only this week we opened the so-called ‘Green Cluster’ of accession negotiations with Serbia, including a chapter related to environment. A few days after the mass protests in Serbia against the government’s legislative proposal, which would dangerously endanger the environment and damage the health of citizens!

“Civic resistance led to the withdrawal of the disputed law, but unfortunately, we totally lacked a reaction from the European Commission and the Council. Instead, they rewarded Serbia, a country that shows the clearest signs of regression in the area of ​​the rule of law, by opening new chapters of negotiations. This sends the wrong message and is unfair to other Western Balkan countries who did not see any new chapters opened!

“Another source of concern for us is the mural of the convicted war criminal Ratko Mladić in Belgrade, which the authorities have so far been unwilling to have permanently removed. We call on the authorities to investigate the role of the hooligan groups and their close links to the police, during the violent incidents with activists protesting against the mural.”

Demetris Papadakis, S&D MEP and negotiator of the resolution on Serbia, added:

“The working conditions in the Linglong tyre factory, as reported by NGOs and the media, are simply inhumane: no money, no passports, no hot water. This must end! We call on the Serbian authorities to investigate the Linglong case carefully and ensure fundamental human rights are respected, especially labour rights in the factory. The conclusions of these investigations should be shared with the EU and the perpetrators held accountable. Such violations are not acceptable in an EU candidate country!

“However, we congratulate Serbian civil society and environmental activists on achieving some of the goals of their protests: the withdrawal of the controversial law on expropriation and a promise of public consultation. This shows that civil activism pays off. The government and parliament will have to put in some serious thought next time before adopting laws in a hurry.

“Serbia is part of Europe. But for its road to EU accession to progress, Serbia needs to adhere to, uphold and defend the values of respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights.”

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