Montenegro Conference on Social Dimensions of Reform

ICFTU OnLine…, 097/980427/DD, 27 April 1998

Brussels April 27 1998 (ICFTU OnLine): Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic will open a major Conference on the Social Dimensions of Reform in Montenegro, organised by the Confederation of Independent Trade Unions of Montenegro.

The Conference, which runs April 28—29 in the ancient Montenegrin capital of Citinje, will bring together politicians, economists, UN representatives and trade unionists to examine ways in which civil society can be involved in ensuring that the economic and social transition process currently underway helps to build a democratic Montenegro.

Parliamentary elections in Montenegro take place at the end of May. One of the Conference's aim will be to demonstrate that the trade unions are keen and capable of playing an active role in the reconstruction of the country, and that they are supporters of the 'reformist' political block.

The war and sanctions have had a devastating effect in Montenegro, as well as leaving the country behind in terms of technological development. Today, Montenegro generates only 5% of Yugoslavia's GDP. Over the past 6 years, 21,000 college graduates left the country to seek employment abroad, and there are nearly 32,000 job seekers (out of a population of 667,000) most with university degrees.

In terms of industry, Montenegro used to have a major shipbuilding industry and fleet. Its ships were detained in foreign ports during the sanctions period and have only recently been released. Part of these had to be sold to pay debts, and funds are needed for repairs. 8,000 workers used to be employed in its shipbuilding industry. At present only 4,000 are in work, and only 1,200 of these receive regular wages. This is a fairly representative picture of the country as a whole.

As well as the Montenegrin President, speakers will include other government ministers, plus Chris Lennie, from Public Service International, Dimitrina Dimitrova from the UN's International Labour Organisation and ICFTU Economist James Howard.

The Conference is being held just after the announcement that Montenegro may be spared the full impact of sanctions against Yugoslavia, as a result of the conflict in Kosovo, because of the strong, principled stand taken by President Djukanovic and the government of Montenegro, with the support of the trade unions, in relation to peace and democracy in Kosovo.

For further information, please contact Daphne Davies, ICFTU press representative at the Grand Hotel, Cetinje, tel: ++381 86 31104 or GSM ++ 32 75 53 08 94.