Solidarity petition: support Jugoremedija workers' struggle in Serbia
Support Jugoremedija workers' struggle
To the head of EU Delegation to Serbia, mister Vincent Degert,
To the European Parliament Special Envoy for the Balkans, mister Jelko Kacin,
To the deputies of the European Parliament,
For almost a year and a half, Jugoremedija, pharmaceutical factory from Zrenjanin, and Penpharm, penicillin production plant – which has been being built by „Jugoremedija“ and a group of its worker-shareholders – have been under severe pressure from political structures, financial magnates, and Serbian media. Although in June this year EU ordered Serbia to investigate 24 contestable privatizations, among which was the illegal sale of Jugoremedija’s shares in 2002, Serbian authorities waste no time in taking steps directly opposite to the Brussels’ demands.
In 2007 Jugoremedija’s workers and small shareholders succeeded, after a persistent, several years long struggle, to prove before Serbian courts that both the state and private investor Jovica Stefanović broke privatization laws and violated the sales contract concerning 42% of Jugoremedija’s shares. The result of this struggle was the eventual breaking of the contract between the state and Stefanović, after which small shareholders took over the administration of the factory. However, till this very day the state hasn’t done anything to correct the errors made during the privatization of Jugoremedija. There’s been no criminal proceedings instituted against Stefanović, or against any responsible official from state institutions in charge of privatization. Workers and small shareholders have been left on their own to compensate for the damage caused to their factory. From the illegal privatization new management has inherited debts and losses in total amount of more than 30 million euros. With no support from the state – which now holds 42% of the share capital and is the effective co-owner and the biggest individual shareholder of Jugoremedija – the factory has nevertheless managed, with great efforts of its workers-shareholders, to cover its losses, repay its debts, and invest 11 million euros in modernization of manufacturing plants so they’d be in compliance with European Good Manufacture Practices (GMP) standards. Finally, at the end of last year, Jugoremedija together with a group of its worker-shareholders started construction of Penpharm, a factory producing penicillin preparations.
Authorities, financial magnates, and media under their control avoid discussion about errors in Serbian privatization. When in spite of that these issues happen to come up in public, they are handled in a way that suggests to citizens that theft machinery is all-powerful, and that fighting for legality is futile and useless. The consequences of that propaganda can be seen in relevant studies – at the same time when, according to findings of Transparency International, index of corruption perception in Serbia rises from year to year, a study recently conducted by Holland Embassy in Belgrade shows that since 2004 corruption reports in Serbia are in constant decline.
The results of many-yeared efforts of Jugoremedija’s worker-shareholders testify to quite the opposite from what the political elites, financial oligarhs and controlled media want to convince us of. That’s why Jugoremedija’s been constantly pressured for about a year and a half now. Police is conducting investigation into some alleged abuses, still without any result, but with enough accompanying publicity to create the impression that „something illegal“ is going on in the factory. The rumors and constant police pressure are forcing partners and commercial banks to eventually give up all cooperation with Jugoremedija, partly because of suspicions induced by police and media persecution, and partly because they fear they might become object of such persecution themselves.
It’s clear that the authorities are attempting to completely isolate Jugoremedija so they could easily destroy it later.
Not only are Serbian authorities ignoring EU demand to establish the truth about 24 contestable privatization cases – including Jugoremedija – but they also strive, by abusing police and media power, to abolish those very examples which prove that truth can be established, and errors rectified. Furthermore, the state Prosecutor’s Office refuses requests to make EU letter public, hiding behind the claim that releasing the document could endanger the whole investigation – while journalists of big newspapers get tips „from unnamed sources close to the government“ that this EU letter doesn’t even exist.
Therefore we appeal to you to take every measure possible and by every means in your power to force Serbian authorities to fulfill EU demand for investigating 24 contestable cases of privatization – in order to help us protect the results acheived in Jugoremedija. For if Jugoremedija and Penpharm disappear, that would be the disappearance of one of the rarest things for Serbian people – hope that struggle for the rule of law may still have meaning, and that wrongs can still be righted.