EurWORK European Observatory of Working Life


BUSINESSEUROPE is the main European-level social partner organisation, representing employers of all sizes in the private sector in Europe through its national member federations.

The organisation was established in 1958 as UNICE (the Union of Industrial and Employers’ Confederations of Europe, its acronym being derived from its French name Union des confédérations de l’industrie et des employeurs d’Europe). Its change of name to BUSINESSEUROPE in January 2007 was aimed at clarifying who the organisation represents: small, medium and large European businesses in all sectors.

In 2015, BUSINESSEUROPE has 40 members based in 34 European Union Member States, the European Economic Area, Turkey, and some central and eastern European countries. It is the leading cross-industry employer social partner participating in the European-level cross-industry social dialogue. A 2014 Eurofound  study on the representativeness of the social partners in the European cross-industry social dialogue confirmed that BUSINESSEUROPE affiliates at least 3.8 million firms through its national members, employing collectively over 60.1 million workers.

Its internal structure consists of the Council of Presidents, composed of the presidents of its national member federations, which meets at least twice a year. This group constitutes the general assembly of the organisation and is responsible for electing the president of BUSINESSEUROPE and for the organisation’s general strategy. The Council of Presidents is also the body entitled to mandate the organisation to negotiate agreements with trade unions at European level and to approve the result of such social dialogue negotiations.

The organisation also has an Executive Committee, which acts as its board of directors. This is composed of the Director-Generals of each of the member federations and is tasked with  translating the Council of President’s strategy into practice and monitoring its implementation. The Executive Committee is supported in its work by the Committee of Permanent Delegates, made up of the permanent representatives of each federation in Brussels. It is assisted by an Executive Bureau made up of a restricted number of Presidents and Directors General of federations of the five largest and five smallest EU countries by rotation. There are also seven specialised policy committees:  

  • Economic and Financial Affairs Committee
  • International Relations Committee
  • Industrial Affairs Committee
  • Social Affairs Committee
  • Legal Affairs Committee
  • Entrepreneurship and SME Committee
  • Internal Market Committee

These committees oversee the work of some 60 working groups that bring together technical and legal experts from national member federations. The Social Affairs Committee is the body responsible for devising BUSINESSEUROPE’s policies and actions in the field of social affairs. It comprises the people responsible for EU employment and social affairs in BUSINESSEUROPE’s member federations across Europe. This committee also prepares BUSINESSEUROPE’s mandate for social dialogue negotiations, which are submitted for adoption to the Council of Presidents.  

Unlike the ETUC, its trade union counterpart, BUSINESSEUROPE does not include EU sectoral employer organisations as part of its direct membership. However, BUSINESSEUROPE organises regular meetings with EU-level sectoral employer organisations in the framework of the European Employers Network (EEN). Furthermore, the enterprises affiliated to these EU sectoral employers federations are usually also affiliated to the national confederations of BUSINESSEUROPE via their national sectoral member federations.

Recently, BUSINESSEUROPE has issued a publication in which it sets out 10 priorities for the European Commission of 2014–2019. It identifies the key actions to be taken in order to boost investment, growth and employment in Europe. In the social field, this means reforming labour markets to encourage companies to create jobs, motivate people to work, better match education and training with real skills needs and ensuring the sustainability of social protection.

In its paper on the ‘Future of Social Europe’ published in November 2014, BUSINESSEUROPE argued that today’s social problems in Europe are not due to a deficit of social policy, but to the  lack of global competitiveness. To set the conditions for a prosperous, dynamic and fair Europe on a sustainable basis, the EU needs to ensure that the following challenges are addressed:

1. The opportunities of a globalised economy should be harnessed for economic and social progress.
2. Competitiveness, growth and employment are the basis for improving prosperity and quality of life for citizens through effectively resourced social systems.
3. Stronger growth and structural labour market reforms lead to a job-rich recovery and achieve open, dynamic and mobile labour markets.
4. Reforms to social protection systems make them fit to face durably changing demographics and social challenges.
5. Reforms to education and training systems contribute to innovative companies performing to the maximum of their capacities, thereby providing attractive job opportunities for workers.
6. EU institutions, governments, European and national social partners cooperate to take bold decisions to increase employment and productivity.

Please note: the European industrial relations dictionary is updated annually. If errors are brought to our attention, we will try to correct them.


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