Is the EMU finally getting its social dimension, including social dialogue?
On 2 October the European Commission published its Communication on “Strengthening the Social Dimension of the Economic and Monetary Union” (EMU). The Commission acknowledges that “there is room to better consult social partners at key steps of the decision-making process under the European Semester”. In a press release, the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) “welcomes the introduction of key social indicators in the semester but deplores the powerlessness of these indicators to change economic governance rules.”
At its 13-14 December 2012 meeting, the European Council had asked the Commission to present a set of possible measures on the social dimension of the EMU, including social dialogue. The importance of strengthening the social dimension was reiterated in June 2013 when the Council pointed out, among other things, the need to ensure better coordination of employment and social policies, while fully respecting national competences, and highlighted, at the same time, the role of the social partners and social dialogue, including at national level.
With some delay (mainly because it was considered better to await the results of the German federal elections held in September), on 2 October the Commission launched its Communication on “Strengthening the Social Dimension of the Economic and Monetary Union” (COM(2013)690 final). Insofar as the Commission considers, in relation to social dialogue, that “there is room to better consult social partners at key steps of the decision-making process under the European Semester”, it proposes, among other things, to
1) meet the EU social partners ahead of the adoption of the Annual Growth Survey (AGS) each autumn and organise afterwards a debate after the AGS with EU social partners and their national affiliates;
2) hold technical preparatory meetings before the March Tripartite Social Summit and other high-level meetings and
3) encourage Member States to discuss all reforms linked to the Country-Specific Recommendations with national social partners.
In an initial reaction, the ETUC stated that it “agrees with the proposal of further involving social partners at both the EU and national level in the definition and implementation of policy recommendations during the European Semester. But,” the ETU adds, “this must be given concrete expression, especially in the many European countries where social dialogue is in reality ignored by the authorities.” More in-depth observations by the ETUC are currently in preparation. What is in any case clear is that the chapter on social dialogue is, as it now stands, a “lighter version” compared to initial draft versions of the Communication. Numerous questions accordingly arise in relation to its proposals’ implementation, application and added value in practice.