EurWORK European Observatory of Working Life

Tripartite Social Summit

The Tripartite Social Summit is a forum for dialogue between EU institutions at presidential level and European social partners at top management level. The summit is co-chaired by the President of the European Council, the President of the European Commission, and the head of state or government of the rotating presidency. The participating social partners are:

  • BusinessEurope, which represents business federations in 34 European countries;
  • European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC);
  • European Centre of Employers and Enterprises (CEEP);
  • European Association of Craft, Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (UEAPME);
  • Council of European Professional and Managerial Staff (Eurocadres).

The Tripartite Social Summit acts as a bridge between the different processes of concertation and enables the social partners to contribute, in an integrated way, to the different components of the Europe 2020 strategy. There are four fields in which tripartite concertation takes place:

  • macroeconomic issues;
  • employment issues;
  • social protection issues;
  • education and training issues.

The conclusions of the Nice European Council of December 2000 provided for an annual meeting of the social partners before the spring European Council. In its 2002 Communication on the European social dialogue, the European Commission supported the establishment of a Tripartite Social Summit for Growth and Employment, bringing together the Troika, the Commission President and a restricted delegation of social partners. This would replace the Standing Committee on Employment, on the basis that it would provide an informal arena for discussing the social partners’ contribution to the Lisbon Strategy.

The Council’s decision to establish the Tripartite Social Summit represented an important political step, which set European-level tripartite concertation within a new framework. The first formal Tripartite Social Summit for Growth and Employment took place in 2003, when the social partners reported on how they were contributing to the Lisbon Strategy through their own initiatives.

The Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) reinforces the importance of the Tripartite Social Summit by stating in Article 152 that:

the Union recognises and promotes the role of the social partners at its level, taking into account the diversity of national systems. It shall facilitate dialogue between the social partners, respecting their autonomy. The Tripartite Social Summit for Growth and Employment shall contribute to social dialogue.

The theme of the most recent Tripartite Social Summit, held on 18 October 2017, was ‘Shaping Europe’s future: Strengthening resilience and promoting economic and social progress for all’. Discussions focused on three areas:

  • the social dimension of Europe;
  • progress achieved and ways to improve involvement of social partners in policies and reforms at national level;
  • investing in learning in a digital economy and society.

See also: Collective industrial relations; Lisbon Strategy; Open method of coordination; Tripartite concertation.


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