international employment law firm alliance L&E Global
European Union

EU: Val Duchesse Summit 2024 to Boost EU Social Dialogue

On 31 January 2024, the Val Duchesse Social Partners Summit that was hosted by the European Commission and the Belgian Presidency of the Council of the EU brought together European social partners to sign a “Tripartite Declaration for a Thriving European Social Dialogue.” This summit marks a renewed commitment to strengthening social dialogue at the EU level. The summit, announced by Urusula von der Leyen in her State of the Union speech of 2023, refers to the first Val Duchesse summit organised by Jacques Delors on 31 January 1985, where he launched the EU social dialogue. This second summit can be seen as a relaunch, as social dialogue at EU-level has been in a decline, despite several attempts by von der Leyen to revive it.

 

Key Outcomes of the Summit

  1. Addressing Labour and Skills Shortages
    • The summit emphasized the need for quality jobs and a skilled workforce, acknowledging that 63% of small and medium-sized businesses face challenges due to labour and skills shortages.
    • An action plan to tackle these shortages is scheduled for presentation in spring 2024.
    • The signatories committed to increasing labour market participation, improving working conditions, facilitating the recognition of qualifications, and integrating international workers.
  2. Prioritising European Social Dialogue
    • Social dialogue is recognised as vital for adapting to changing economic and social circumstances, particularly in the context of green and digital transitions.
    • The Declaration reaffirms the EU’s commitment to respect and promote the role of social partners and social dialogue.
  3. Establishing a European Social Dialogue Envoy
    • The European Commission will establish a dedicated envoy to enhance the role of social dialogue at both European and national levels.
    • This envoy will support the implementation of the Commission’s communication on strengthening social dialogue and serve as a contact point for social partners.
  4. Launching a Pact for European Social Dialogue
    • Plans to initiate a series of bipartite and tripartite meetings aim to further strengthen social dialogue at the EU level.
    • The pact encompasses EU institutional and financial support, capacity building through the European Social Fund Plus, and a collaborative approach for negotiating and implementing social partner agreements.
    • The goal is to conclude this Pact by early 2025.

 

Conclusion

The Val Duchesse Social Partners Summit underscores the importance of collaborative dialogue between workers’ and business representatives. By focusing on labour and skills shortages, reinforcing social dialogue, and establishing supportive structures like the European Social Dialogue Envoy and Pact, the summit aims to enhance the European social model, promote economic prosperity, and improve living and working conditions across the EU. However, the first attempt in years to reach a European Framework Agreement between the European Social Partners regarding working time and telework failed in 2023. The Commission wanted this agreement to be the crown jewel of the summit. Therefore, the failure of these negotiations does not stem hopeful for the future of EU social dialogue, even if the summit can give it a new boost.