First formal tripartite social summit takes place

Ministers and representatives of the European social partners gathered on 20 March 2003 for the EU's first formal 'tripartite social summit'. The social partners reported on what action they have been taking to implement the EU’s employment and social goals and gave an overview of progress in the implementation of their own autonomous work programme.

The first formal 'tripartite social summit for growth and employment' took place on 20 March 2003. It was co-chaired by Konstantinos Simitis, the Greek Prime Minister and current President of the EU Council of Ministers, and Romano Prodi, President of the European Commission. The summit was attended by high-level representatives of the social partners, in addition to the employment and social affairs Commissioner, Anna Diamantopoulou, the Greek minister for employment and social affairs, Dimitrios Reppas, the Italian welfare minister, Roberto Maroni, and the Irish enterprise, trade and employment minister, Frank Fahey.

Informal social summits have been held on the eve of the annual spring European Council meeting on economic and social issues for the past two years, in Stockholm in March 2001 (EU0104208F) and in Barcelona in March 2002 (EU0203205F). The decision to formalise the arrangement follows a call made by the social partners in their joint contribution to the Laeken European Council in December 2001 (EU0112262F) for a concertation committee on growth and employment to be established. The tripartite social summit for growth and employment was formally established by a Council Decision of 6 March 2003 (EU0303203F). The summit will from now on be held annually, on the eve of the annual spring economic and social Council. The objective of this summit is to strengthen contacts between the social partners and the European institutions in the areas of economic and social policies and to 'send a strong political signal about the importance of tripartite concertation in boosting the involvement of the social partners in the pursuit of the Lisbon objectives'- ie the EU employment targets and objectives set at the March 2000 Lisbon Council (EU0004241F).

At the March 2003 tripartite summit, the social partners reported on how they are contributing to the Lisbon agenda through their own initiatives. Areas covered included collective bargaining, wage moderation, improved productivity, new technologies, flexible organisation of work and lifelong learning. They presented their first annual report on the implementation of their 'joint framework of actions for the lifelong development of competencies and qualifications', signed in February 2002 (EU0204210F). The social partners also reported on their progress in achieving the goals set out in their multiannual work programme for 2003-5 (EU0212206F). Issues highlighted included employment, equal opportunities, education and training and corporate restructuring (EU0201235F).

Following the conclusion of the summit, Mr Simitis stated that: 'The tripartite social summit has been put on a formal footing in line with the wishes of all the key actors involved in the social dialogue at European level. Today’s first session of the formalised summit more than met our expectations. The exchange of views on the Lisbon strategy has highlighted the need to deepen tripartite cooperation in order to achieve the objectives of growth, employment and social cohesion. The social dialogue is a crucial element of the European social model. I believe that this tripartite collaboration, established at the highest level, will strengthen the pursuit of the Lisbon goals.'

Mr Prodi added that: 'Against the backdrop of war, any discussion of the Lisbon strategy may appear at first sight a luxury, even slightly out of place. But it is not. In a climate of global uncertainty, flagging business confidence and stubborn unemployment, pushing forward with the agreed Lisbon reforms has never been more relevant and vital. And the strategy can only work if all players play their part to the full, including business and workers.'

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