EurWORK European Observatory of Working Life

Tripartite Social Summit

The Tripartite Social Summit is a forum for dialogue between the EU institutions at presidential level and the 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 of the Council of the European Union. The Tripartite Social Summit is held every few years, on an irregular basis.


The participating social partners at Tripartite Social Summit are:

  • BusinessEurope, which represents business federations in 35 European countries
  • the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC)
  • SGI Europe (formerly known as CEEP)
  • SMEunited (formerly known as UEAPME)
  • Eurocadres, the Council of European Professional and Managerial Staff

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 various components of the EU’s long-term strategy. There are four areas in which tripartite concertation takes place:

  1. macroeconomic issues
  2. employment issues
  3. social protection issues
  4. education and training issues

The Summit grew out of the conclusions of the Nice European Council of December 2000, which 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 for the EU’s economy.

The Council’s decision to establish the Tripartite Social Summit represented an important political step, setting European-level tripartite concertation within a new framework. The first formal Tripartite Social Summit for Growth and Employment took place in 2003; at the Summit, 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 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.

Historical development

Tripartite Social Summit of Gothenburg

A second Tripartite Social Summit was organised under the Swedish Presidency of the EU, at Gothenburg and called ‘Social summit for fair jobs and growth’, on 17 November 2017. Discussions focused on three areas: the social dimension of Europe; progress achieved and ways to improve the involvement of social partners in policies and reforms at national level; and investing in learning in a digital economy and society. The European Pillar of Social Rights, which sets out 20 principles and rights, was proclaimed and signed by the Council of the EU, the European Parliament and the Commission during the Gothenburg Social Summit.

Tripartite Social Summit of Porto

The third Tripartite Social Summit was organised under the Portuguese Presidency of the EU on 7 and 8 May 2021 at Porto. The European Council, made up of the heads of state or government of the 27 EU Member States, adopted the Porto Declaration, reaffirming their ‘pledge to work towards a social Europe’.

This was the first time for more than 20 years that the EU had formally reaffirmed its social dimension. The Declaration points out that ‘the social dimension, social dialogue and the active involvement of social partners have always been at the core of a highly competitive social market economy’.

The European Council ratified the social chapter of the EU’s new strategy, based on the recovery plan following the COVID-19 pandemic and the European Green Deal. More specifically, the Council validated first the European Pillar of Social Rights Action Plan, put forward by the European Commission in March 2021, and second its three 2030 targets to be achieved by 2030: (1) at least 78% of people aged 20 to 64 to have a job, (2) at least 60% of adults to participate in training activities every year and (3) the number of people at risk of poverty or social exclusion to be cut by at least 15 million. The progress made by Member States towards achieving these targets and applying the Pillar’s 20 principles will be measured each year ‘as part of the policy coordination framework in the context of the European Semester’ and followed ‘closely ... including at the highest level’. These social commitments constitute ‘a fundamental element of the [post-COVID-19] recovery’, which is intended to deliver a ‘digital, green and fair transition’.

Although no announcements in this regard had been expected, the Council emphasised in the declaration the importance it attached to the texts being discussed and prepared, such as those relating to ‘changes linked to digitalisation, artificial intelligence, teleworking and the platform economy … with a view to reinforcing workers’ rights, social security systems and occupational health and safety’.

Finally, the European Council expressed satisfaction

that the European Social Partners have made a joint proposal for an alternative set of indicators to measure economic, social and environmental progress, supplementing GDP as [a] welfare measure for inclusive and sustainable growth.

In addition, on 7 May 2021, representatives of the European institutions, social partners and civil society adopted the Porto Social Commitment, which calls on the EU to ‘maintain emergency measures as long as necessary while promoting a strategic approach to facilitate the creation of new quality jobs and job-to-job transitions’.

They also agreed to

promote autonomous social dialogue as a structuring component of the European Social Model and strengthen it at the European, national, regional, sectorial and company levels, with special emphasis on ensuring an enabling framework for collective bargaining within the various models that exist in the Member States.

Related dictionary terms

BusinessEuropeCollective industrial relationsLisbon StrategyOpen method of coordinationSGI EuropeSMEunitedTripartite concertation

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