At the session of the European Parliament on December 16, the resolution on “forced labor” in Linglong and environmental protests was discussed, based on the proposals of the Liberals, which were supported by the Social Democrats and the Greens. After the debate, the members of the European Parliament adopted the Resolution on Human Rights, Democracy, and the Rule of Law in Serbia, which, among other things, talks about forced labor on the construction site of the Linglong factory. 586 deputies voted for the text, 53 were against, while 44 abstained.
The main allegations of the Resolution
- Expresses deep concerns over the alleged forced labor, violation of human rights, and human trafficking of around 500 Vietnamese people at the Chinese Linglong Tire factory construction site in Serbia;
- Urges the Serbian authorities to investigate the case carefully and ensure respect for fundamental human rights in the factory, especially labor rights, to provide the EU with the conclusions of its investigations and to hold the perpetrators to account; calls on the Serbian authorities to allow free, meaningful and unhindered access to the Linglong Tire factory in Zrenjanin and the lodging facilities of the Vietnamese workers for NGOs, CSOs, EU officials and officials from other international organizations; urges the Delegation of the European Union to the Republic of Serbia to closely follow up on these processes and the fate of the 500 Vietnamese workers;
- Calls on Serbia to improve alignment with EU labor law, adopt a new law on the right to strike, tackle undeclared work and amend the law on inspection oversight to comply with the relevant International Labour Organization conventions, which it has ratified;
- Expresses its deep concern over serious problems with corruption and the rule of law in the environment area, over the general lack of transparency and environmental and social impact assessments of infrastructure projects, including from Chinese investments and loans as well as from multinational companies such as Rio Tinto; notes, in this context, the opening of Cluster 4 ‘Green Agenda and Sustainable Connectivity’ in the EU accession negotiations; calls on the EU and the Serbian authorities to follow up on the legitimate concerns expressed in the environmental protests and to urgently address these problems during the negotiations;
- Expresses concern over China’s increasing influence in Serbia and across the Western Balkans; calls on Serbia to strengthen its legal compliance standards for Chinese business activities; emphasises that Serbian labour and environmental laws should also apply to Chinese companies operating in the country;
It remains to be seen to what extent this Resolution will encourage the competent institutions in Serbia to react “a little better” and examine what happened and is happening in the Chinese company that hired foreign workers to build Linglong.
Serbia’s first reaction came from the Interior Ministry, which states, among other things, that “MEPs in their countries are not taken seriously, so they want to cure their frustrations in Serbia”. It seems that the Serbian Government continues its autistic policy on this issue.
* * *
We remind you that six members of the European Parliament wrote in a letter on November 19 that they were “horrified” by the reports on alleged human trafficking for labor exploitation in Serbia. A letter published on the website of the Green MP in the EP, Viola von Cramon, says that “the findings from the field give a horrible picture – a picture of modern slavery on the borders of the European Union.” A day later, von Cramon said that it was completely unacceptable for Serbia, a country aspiring to become a member of the European Union, to tolerate the construction and operation of a factory on its territory, which is suspected of employment through human trafficking and exploitation.
While the public’s attention is waning, due to the constant influx of information about other various social problems and hotspots in Serbia, the workers engaged in the construction of the LingLong factory, apart from being transferred to slightly more conditional accommodation, are in no better position than established from the beginning. They still lack food, clean water, winter clothes, and covers, they are intimidated, under the supervision and they must not leave the accommodation arbitrarily. The contact they make with civil society activists comes down to picking up food packages. Of particular concern is the information received from workers, that management does not take care of injured and sick workers, that even if an ambulance call comes from outside, from someone not directly involved in LingLong’s business or the Chinese company that hired workers, the question is that whether an ambulance could enter the factory circuit or accommodation.
Also, on December 13, TV N1 announced that a worker of Chinese origin was killed on the construction site after part of the equipment for work/machines fell on him. According to their information, which was confirmed from several sources, the worker did not have a protective helmet at the time the object fell on his head. The ambulance of Zrenjanin said that they could not confirm the information, and the local police did not answer the calls of this media. Some of the workers with whom the activists are in contact testify that the ambulance waited 20 minutes in front of the factory to take out the injured worker and that the unfortunate man died after that.