In their Contribution to the Laeken European Council on 7 December 2001, the ETUC, UNICE (now BUSINESSEUROPE), UEAPME and CEEP distinguished ‘tripartite concertation between the social partners and European public authorities’ from ‘bipartite work by the social partners’. This was spelled out in detail in Section 3:
tripartite concertation to designate exchanges between the social partners and European public authorities;
consultation of the social partners to designate the activities of advisory committees and official consultations in the spirit of article 137 of the Treaty (now Article 154 TFEU);
social dialogue to designate bipartite work by the social partners, whether or not prompted by the Commission’s official consultations based on article 137 and 138 of the Treaty (now Articles 154 and 155 TFEU).
A Council Decision of 6 March 2003 formally established a new ‘Tripartite Social Summit for Growth and Employment’ to support reinforcement of the concertation between social partners and European institutions on economic and social policies. This institutionalises meetings at least once a year, just before the spring European Council, between the social partners and the head of state or government of the present and two subsequent Presidencies of the Council and the Commission.
The first formal Tripartite Social Summit for Growth and Employment took place on 20 March 2003, co-chaired by the Greek Prime Minister, then current President of the EU Council of Ministers, and the President of the European Commission, and attended by high-level representatives of the social partners, the Social Affairs Commissioner and the Ministers of Labour from Greece and those of the Member States holding the next two Presidencies (Italy and Ireland).
The establishment of the Tripartite Social Summit by Council Decision represented an important political step, which set European-level tripartite concertation within a new framework, with the Tripartite Social Summit acting as a bridge between the different processes of concertation. The aim is to ensure greater consistency in tripartite concertation, and to enable the social partners to contribute in an integrated way to the different components of the Lisbon Strategy. There are now four fields in which tripartite concertation takes place: macro-economics, employment, social protection and education and training. Each comprises both a technical and a political level. The macroeconomic dialogue, aimed at encouraging growth and employment, involves regular exchange of views between the representatives of the Commission, the Council, the European Central Bank and the social partners. The tripartite dialogue on employment takes place along the lines of the macro-economic dialogue.