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European social dialogue

European social dialogue


Commission communication — European social dialogue, a force for innovation and change



It sets out guidelines aimed at strengthening the contribution of employers’ and workers’ representatives (‘social partners’) to the work of the public institutions, in order to improve public governance and economic and social reform within the EU.


The main aims of the Communication are to:

increase the consultation of the social partners in the drafting of EU law to include all initiatives having social repercussions

improve the procedures and rules for consultation

encourages co-operation between national organisations and the improvement of their internal governance

encourage social partners to broaden and enhance social dialogue by concluding more agreements to be integrated into EU law and by developing the processes for dialogue within and between different sectors

raise the profile of the results of European social dialogue

improve training for European social partners and representatives of national authorities, and to promote local social dialogue and corporate social responsibility.

Forms of dialogue

Consultation with social partners takes two main forms:

a two-way dialogue between the European employers and trade union organisations. This takes place at cross-industry level and within sectoral committees.

a three-way dialogue involving the public authorities.

Sectoral social dialogue

By 2015, 43 sectoral social dialogue committees (SSDCs) have been established. SSDCs are forums for discussion and consultation on employment and social policy proposals in some specific sectors. They often comprise several working groups and committees.

Cross-industry social dialogue

A number of forums have been established to enable social dialogue across sectors including:

the Social Dialogue Committee, the main EU forum for two-way social dialogue at cross-industry level

the Tripartite Social Summit for Growth and Employment, proposed in this Communication, which meets twice a year. It brings together representatives of the Council and European Commission along with a delegation of social partners.

the Macroeconomic Dialogue, a high-level forum (ministerial level) for the exchange of views between the Council, Commission, European Central Bank and social partners takes place twice a year and has a two-layer structure, political and technical.

Liaison Forum for information exchange between all EU social partner organisations and the Commission

Advisory committees

Seminars, joint projects of social partners.


When considering legislation the Commission consults the social partners on the possible direction of an initiative, in a first stage, and on the content of an initiative, at a second stage.

According to a 2010 report, sectoral social dialogue has:

contributed to more than 500 texts of varying legal status, ranging from joint opinions and responses to agreements that have been implemented as EU legislation.

agreed five legally binding texts, in social dialogue committees which have been implemented by directives

Several agreements have also been produced under cross-industry social dialogue:

4 agreements signed by European social partners that have been transformed into directives under the social dialogue procedure set out in Articles 154 and 155 of Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union

4 cross-industry agreements have also been concluded by social partners on the basis of their own work programme.


Social dialogue


Communication from the Commission — The European social dialogue, a force for innovation and change (COM(2002) 341 final of 26.6.2002)


Commission staff working document on the functioning and potential of European sectoral social dialogue (SEC(2010) 964 final of 22.7.2010)

last update 06.10.2015