‘Val Duchesse’ is the term used to describe the emergence of the European social dialogue in the mid-1980s. This was the result of an initiative taken by Jacques Delors, the incoming President of the Commission in January 1985, to invite the chairs and general secretaries of all the national organisations affiliated to the EU-level organisations of employers and workers (UNICE, CEEP and the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) to a meeting at the castle of Val Duchesse outside Brussels on 31 January 1985. At this historic meeting, the social partners agreed to engage in furthering the social dialogue. At a second meeting on 12 November 1985, they set up two joint working parties. This social dialogue produced three joint opinions: on 6 November 1986, 6 March 1987 and 26 November 1987.
The European social dialogue received formal recognition by the new Single European Act’s insertion into the EC Treaty of a new Article 118B EC (now Articles 138 139 EC); the dialogue moved to a second phase with a meeting held at the Palais d’Egmont on 12 January 1989, which set up a political steering group. More working parties were set up and joint opinions produced in the years that followed. Between 1985 and 1995, the Val Duchesse process generated 21 joint opinions and declarations, two key agreements and seven high-level summits.
Its greatest achievement, however, was the result of the negotiations at Maastricht, which produced the Treaty on European Union of 1992. Most of the substance of the provisions, which eventually became the Agreement on Social Policy between 11 Member States were the result of negotiations culminating in the Agreement dated 31 October 1991 between ETUC and UNICE/CEEP on a new draft of Articles 118(4), 118A and 118B of the Treaty of Rome. With few modifications, the 11 Member States adopted this Agreement as the basis for the future labour and social law of the European Union.
See also: employer organisations; European collective agreements; European social model; European social partners; eu system of industrial relations; framework agreements; representativeness; social dialogue; Social Policy Protocol.