Tuesday, 2 December 2008

European Union: Social partners and Tripartite Social Summit

Sometimes the EU Treaty of Lisbon introduces new elements to ordinary ‘Community’ policy areas. The social partners are recognised and the Tripartite Social Summit for Growth and Employment is consecrated at treaty level.

We ask our readers to reflect upon a translation issue: The English treaty uses different terms in two places where five other language versions stay on track.

Some policy oriented materials are indicated for further reading.

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Current TEC

Yesterday’s post looked at the social policy objectives of the European Community (European Union), mentioned in Article 136 TEC (ex Article 117), in the latest consolidated version of the treaties, OJ 29.12.2006 C 321 E/103:

– promotion of employment

– improved and harmonised living and working conditions

– social protection

– dialogue between management and labour

– development of human resources

– combating exclusion.

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Management and labour or social partners?

In the blog post ‘European Union: Employment Committee’ we discussed the differences between the English terminology and five other language versions in the context of Article 130 TEC and Article 150 TFEU:


Management and labour

The English version of the treaties refers to consulting ‘management and labour’. We look at the wording of the sentence, first in English:

In fulfilling its mandate, the Committee shall consult management and labour.

Management and labour seem to be given more exact contours, when we turn to the German version:

Bei der Erfüllung seines Auftrags hört der Ausschuss die Sozialpartner.

The French words, likewise, gives management and labour a more precise meaning than the English treaty text:

Dans l'accomplissement de son mandat, le comité consulte les partenaires sociaux.

The Spanish treaty text catches another nuance of the parties or partners to be consulted:

Para llevar a cabo su mandato, el Comité deberá consultar a los interlocutores sociales.

The Finnish treaty text uses (almost) the same terminology as the German and the French, although the customary term evokes contracting parties (collective agreements) as much as partners in a dialogue:

Tehtäväänsä toteuttaessaan komitea kuulee työmarkkinaosapuolia.

The Swedish text uses the term ’arbetsmarknadens parter’ identical with the Finnish concept:

Kommittén ska när den utför sitt uppdrag höra arbetsmarknadens parter.

We can conclude that the drafters of the treaties have had organised employers and organised labour in mind and that national systems of collective bargaining and traditions of dialogue between management and employee interests are reflected in the various terms used. Anyway, the English version seems to be less exact than the other language versions. (The Title Social policy is imbued with references to the social partners.)


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Social partners

Even if Article 130 TEC and Article 150 TFEU used ‘management and labour’ in the English treaty versions, ‘social partners’ is a recurring term in eurospeak or euro jargon.

The Europa Glossary outlines the meaning of ‘social partners’ in the following way (although it leans heavily on Article 138 TEC, in the current Title XI Social policy, education, vocational training and youth):

Social partners

The glossary is being updated given the recent signing of the Treaty of Lisbon.

The Commission is required to consult various social partners when it wishes to submit proposals in this field (article 138 of the EC Treaty). This social dialogue occurs via the three main cross-industry organisations representing the social partners at European level:

the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC);
the Union of Industrial and Employers' Confederations of Europe (BUSINESSEUROPE);
the European Centre of Enterprises with Public Participation (CEEP).

In addition to these three European cross-industry organisations, there are many other socio-professional groups representing specific or sectoral interests.

It is the Commission's task to promote consultation of the social partners and take any relevant measures to facilitate their dialogue by ensuring balanced support for the parties.

Before submitting proposals in the field of social policy, the Commission consults the social partners on the possible direction of EU action.

The social partners also play an important role in the European Economic and Social Committee, where they sit alongside other representatives of civil society.

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Original Lisbon Treaty (ToL)


The Treaty of Lisbon (ToL) is still on its rocky road to possible entry into force. Agreed and signed between 27 member state governments, it has by now been approved by the national parliaments in 25 member states ahead of the original target date for entry into force (1 January 2009). Among the parliamentary ratifiers, only the holder of the next Council Presidency, the Czech Republic, looks certain to miss the agreed target date.

In addition, Ireland is pondering its European future following the negative outcome of the 12 June 2008 referendum. (You can find updated references to materials of general European interest on the debate in the posts ‘Ireland and Lisbon Treaty’ and ‘UCD Dublin European Institute: Irleand’s Future in Europe’.)

Anyway, in some instances the Lisbon Treaty is the most up-to-date manifestation of what the member state governments want the treaties to say.

On the other hand, the treaty reform process, at least since the Treaty of Nice, has been focused on so called institutional innovations. With a few notable exceptions, most areas of Community policy have only been updated and adjusted technically to the different reform treaty versions: the draft Constitution, the Constitutional Treaty and the Lisbon Treaty.

After moving Title IX Common commercial policy and Title X Customs cooperation, employment, social policy and the European Social Fund (ESF) would follow each other in a more logical order when the Lisbon Treaty is in force.

In addition, Title XI Social policy, education, vocational training and youth is divided into separate Titles, which makes the treaty easier to read.

Although the bulk of the Treaty establishing the European Community undergoes technical adjustments, Article 2, point 115 of the original Treaty of Lisbon (ToL) makes en exception by introducing a new Article (OJ 17.12.2007 C 306/81):

115) The following new Article 136a shall be inserted:

‘Article 136a

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.’.

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Renumbering ToL

The Table of equivalences of the original Treaty of Lisbon tells us that the social policy title was to be renumbered Title X and that the new Article 136a TFEU (ToL) was to be renumbered Article 152 TFEU in the consolidated version of the amending treaties (OJ 17.12.2007 C 306/214).


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Consolidated Lisbon Treaty



The new Article 152 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), in the consolidated TFEU, published in the Official Journal of the European Union, OJ 9.5.2008 C 115/114, looks like this:

(TITLE X
SOCIAL POLICY)

Article 152 TFEU

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.


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Article 152 TFEU background

The intergovernmental conference (IGC 2007) did very little creative or innovative work. Its objective was to salvage the essential ‘institutional innovations’ of the Constitutional Treaty in the form of an amending treaty. Some reform provisions were watered down, but in the end the bulk of the Lisbon Treaty far exceeded the initial notion of a ‘mini treaty’.

In other words, we have to look at the draft Constitution and the Constitutional Treaty if we want to know how we ended up with Article 152 TFEU.

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Draft Constitution I-47

The European Convention included a new Article I-47 on the social partners and autonomous social dialogue, under Title VI The democratic life of the Union (OJ 18.7.2003 C 169/20):

Article I-47 Draft Constitution
The social partners and autonomous social dialogue

The European Union recognises and promotes the role of the social partners at Union level, taking into account the diversity of national systems; it shall facilitate dialogue between the social partners, respecting their autonomy.

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de Poncins

Étienne de Poncins offered the following comment on the new Article I-47 in Vers une Constitution européenne (Éditions 10/18, 2003), on page 215:

« Point à relever : reconnaissance du dialogue social

Le contenu de cet article doit beaucoup aux partenaires sociaux ainsi qu’aux Conventionnels membres du Comité économique et social et bénéfiant du statut d’observateurs au sein de la Convention. La Convention reconnaît le rôle et la place du dialogue social en l’inscrivant dans la Partie I de la Constitution. »

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Constitutional Treaty I-48

This is one of the instances where the intergovernmental conference (IGC 2003–2004) actually added something to the draft Constitution.

Article I-48 of the Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe retained the text of Article I-47 proposed by the European Convention and the provision’s location in the ‘constitutional’ first part, but the IGC also added a second paragraph on the Tripartite Social Summit for Growth and Employment (OJ 16.12.2004 C 310/35):

Article I-48 Constitution
The social partners and autonomous social dialogue

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.

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From the Constitution to the Lisbon Treaty

We notice that Article 152 TFEU takes over the wording of Article I-48 Constitution without change, but the location is shifted from the lofty first part of the Constitution to the more commonplace Title on social policy.

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Translation again

Above we noted that the English language version of the treaty employed the non-distinct term ‘management and labour’ in Article 130 TEC and Article 150 TFEU, where five other language versions evoked ‘social partners’ or something close to it.

But in Article 152 TFEU the English treaty text adopts the term ‘social partners’ and speaks of ‘social dialogue’.

The five other language versions continue to employ the customary concepts: German (Sozialpartner, soziale Dialog), French (partenaires sociaux, dialogue social), Spanish (interlocutores sociales, diálogo social), Finnish (työmarkkinaosapuolet, työmarkkinaosapuolten välinen vuoropuhelu) and Swedish (arbetsmarknadsparter, dialog mellan arbetsmarknadens parter).

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Tripartite Social Summit for Growth and Employment

Although the consecration of the Tripartite Social Summit for Growth and Employment at treaty level is a novelty, this institutionalised dialogue exists informally since 2000 and formally pursuant to Council Decision 2003/174/CE of 6 March 2003 establishing a Tripartite Social Summit for Growth and Employment (OJ 14.3.2003 L 70/31:

http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=OJ:L:2003:070:0031:0033:EN:PDF

The Commission’s SCADPlus web page Tripartite Social Summit for Growth and Employment offers an overview:

http://europa.eu/scadplus/leg/en/cha/c10715.htm

Ahead of the 2008 spring European Council the Slovenian Council Presidency informed about the traditional upcoming Tripartite Social Summit for Growth and Employment:

http://www.eu2008.si/si/News_and_Documents/Fact/March/0313_EC-SOCTripart.pdf

The current French Council Presidency is not known for being averse to summits. The latest tripartite summit was held 15 October 2008:

http://www.eu2008.fr/PFUE/site/PFUE/lang/en/sommet_social_tripartite


Ralf Grahn