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Florence,     6-10 November 2002

The General Confederation of Trade Unions, GCTU, an organisation affiliating national trade union centres in the countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States and industrial Trade Union Internationals of the region, sends its warm greetings to participants in the European Social Forum. We are positive that this forum will provide possibilities for a broad-based dialogue of public forces concerned over the negative consequences of globalisation for most of the Earth's population, and develop a platform of action that will meet the needs of Europeans in today's complicated situation.

The globalisation processes have seriously affected the workers on the European continent, including the region where our Confederation operates. The neo-liberal economic reforms presently carried out in the CIS countries, the breakdown of former economic ties, together with the hasty and unchecked privatisation have resulted in an unprecedented drop in the economy, massive unemployment, the impoverished masses of population, a sharp decline in social protection, and unparalleled growth in the social equality gap.

Transnational corporations penetrate deeper and deeper into the economies of CIS countries, taking advantage of their plight in order to exploit ruthlessly their workers, minimise the rights of trade unions at their enterprises, or even prevent their creation. In this context, on the initiative of the GCTU, seven CIS countries signed an agreement in Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan, in 1997, providing for unimpeded establishment of a trade union organisation at each transnational enterprise operative on their territories. However, much has to be done to make the agreement work and widen its coverage.

Many CIS countries have effected their reforms according to recommendations issued directly by the international financial institutions, and their deplorable results for workers show that it is high time we put an end to the interference of these institutions in the internal affairs of our region. Now that some CIS countries have joined, and others intend to join, the World Trade Organisation we must insist that social aspects and protection of workers' interests should become part of this process.

In today's world, it is essential that the basic instruments of the International Labour Organisation, which we regard as a world labour code, should be observed to the fullest extent, and we will continue the line for all-round strengthening of the ILO and its monitoring functions.

To accomplish all those tasks, it is necessary to enhance the international solidarity of workers and trade unions. The recent terrorist acts committed in different parts of the world make this particularly topical. The GCTU strongly condemned the terrorist attacks in New York in September 2001 and in Moscow in October 2002, as it considers international terrorism to be a principal enemy of workers and all people on this planet.

The GCTU's position on the main problems of our times coincide with, or are similar to, the goals proclaimed by the World Social Forum held in Porto Allegre in 2002 where the decision was taken to call this European Social Forum. Although the GCTU will not be able to attend it, we would like to stress our wish to maintain contacts with its organisers in the future.

We wish you a successful Forum.

General Confederation of Trade Unions

Moscow, November 2002