Our fates are joined together. Eastern Central Europe has suffered a lot throughout the 20th century. During the two World Wars, our countries became the battleground for the clash of great powers, which caused a shocking devastation for our nations. We weathered the storm of the second half of the 20th century on the Communist side of the Iron Curtain. When the end of the cold war opened the door for European integration, our nations rightfully hoped for a well-deserved, peaceful and prosperous future after so many centuries of suffering. However, our EU accession failed to bring us the kind of material and economic development that our peoples expected.
Our region’s common tragedy is emigration which primarily affects our youth and which is mainly driven by the wage gap between the Western and the Eastern side of the Union. While the common market has basically levelled out consumer prices across Europe, the difference of salaries and the consequent living standards remained unchanged in our continent. We, Eastern European member states stand helplessly by while we lose our best people.
While various forums conduct daily debates on immigration into the European Union, the issue of emigration from Eastern Central Europe, the labour drain from our region is hardly addressed at all even though the numbers, the masses affected and the consequent problems are just as severe. For our nations, this problem means a demographic loss, a huge social security risk, an increasing labour shortage, an unmanageable loss of income, the deprivation of taxpayers’ money invested in human resources as well as a social drama where families are torn apart, parents are separated from their children and grandchildren grow up without their grandparents.
It is a tragic situation. It is just as tragic as the silence about this issue. There is no strategy, no constructive debates and no public discussion of the problem. The leaders of the EU look away. What seems like cheap imported labour force today for the Western member states is a national tragedy for us, but both sides will lose eventually because an Eastern region with a collapsing social structure may destroy the European dream as a whole. That is why we must find a solution!
We, the signers of this declaration, fully understanding our historical responsibility, feeling the pressure of time and seeing the difficult situation our nations are in, decided to join forces and put an end to the silence, the waffling and scratching the surface of the problem. We want a fair and secure Europe! In the West and the East alike. Of course, we know it is a complex issue and the solution cannot come overnight. However, we have no choice but to set this goal here and now because we are in the last hour.
Although the initiative for the European Wage Union primarily defines our region’s position from the aspect of workers, we must clearly state that this goal can only be accomplished if the Eastern side of the continent can produce a much better economic output with the help of competitive Eastern Central European enterprises that are able to sustain and provide such wages. So the initiative reaches far beyond the issue of wages; it essentially calls for the creation of a new, fair and secure European Union. Our region and our nations are not asking for charity. What we are asking for is a framework where we can prosper, where positive processes can take root, where strong national business enterprises can grow and where the European Wage Union can come true. In order to achieve this goal, the concept of “equal pay for equal work” must become one of the EU’s fundamental freedoms, not only in theory but in practice as well. That is the purpose of our initiative.
We, the signers of this document, know that history bound our fates together. Today we commit to a joint future, too. The 20th century brought a sea of torment for our nations. In the 21st century, we are fully determined to join our forces and lay the foundations of peace, justice, security and prosperity for all of us!