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N° 96-97 (mai 2019)

English Abstracts

Social Europe: what policies, what models, what trade unionism?


The terms of social Europe, like those of the European social model and European social dialogue, have sparked inexhaustible controversies. Social Europe has highlighted contradictions, first between community institutions and member states, secondly between the various member states themselves, and finally – and above all – between management and the unions. Conflicts, alliances, and compromises involving multiple stakeholders have engendered a historical pattern consisting of periods of optimism and diagnoses of exhaustion. Such discontinuities come with a gradual sedimentation of institutions and norms, prompting an exploration of what makes Europe’s social model unique. Confronted with these developments, unions have slowly, and sometimes contentiously, changed the definition of their strategies and of how a Europe-wide stakeholder union should be built.

Overview of European interprofessional collective bargaining

From construction to systemic threats

Frédérique MICHÉA

The article offers an overview of the European interprofessional social dialogue. In procedural terms, the mechanisms of the dialogue set out in treaties have given social partners solid guarantees allowing them to express their interests within the Union’s judicial system. In terms of content, the richness of the negotiated agreements is worth underlining. However, the perspectives of the European social dialogue must be understood in the light of two specific threats: competition from agreed frameworks over which trades unions have limited control, and the mechanisms allowing parties to be excluded from the social dialogue, of which the Commission’s REFIT programme is particularly emblematic.

European social dialogue and the ambivalence of the triple A Social Europe

Christophe DEGRYSE

After a period in which the European social partners were called on to contribute by means of collective bargaining to the construction of a European social dimension, changes, sometimes unexpected, are now hindering the development of the European social dialogue. The interprofessional level has been weakened by confusion over the objectives and tools of social dialogue: for employers, it is a forum to debate structural reforms of labour markets, for trades unions and in the treaties it is a place for collective bargaining to create social norms that improve living and working conditions. The sectorial level has fallen prey to an unexpected change of attitude by the European Commission itself, which is now impeding a dialogue that could lead to restrictive legal norms in the name – or on the pretext – of regulatory fitness and performance. The ongoing blockage of sectorial social dialogue agreements has a part to play in harming the Juncker Commission’s efforts to achieve its stated objective of a social Triple A rating.

An overview of social Europe


Of the various legal instruments in use worldwide and across Europe, European Union law is, in many ways, an original source of rights for workers and, most importantly, the most extensive corpus of supranational norms in the social field. The article seeks to lay out the groundwork for a legal and critical approach to social Europe by looking at recent developments to explore whether European Union social law is indeed now in the service of a social Europe.

Workers’ participation rights in transnational European companies: an unfinished European right


The article takes a legal approach to the issue of how workers participate in the decision-making process in transnational European companies. Information and consultation procedures and collective bargaining procedures are both promoted in the name of social dialogue, now a Social Europe value. Yet the efficacy of workers’ participation rights remains under threat. On the one hand, information and consultation procedures have been legally instituted in European Union law, albeit with insufficient means to carry them out fully. On the other, the practice of collective bargaining is currently somewhat widespread, but its normative efficacy remains overly limited. In both cases, worker participation in the establishment of social norms appears inadequate.

Trade unionism in Europe: ETUC, a space for collective action?

Jean-Marie PERNOT

The article looks back at the various stages of building the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC), particularly in line with the stages of building the European Union. The liberal takeover of the European Union process has deprived the European trade union movement of a means of claiming the legitimacy enshrined in its institutions. It is doubtless appropriate to study the European trade union arena in a new light, taking account of ETUC’s organisational achievements and the need for greater commitment from its affiliates. ETUC can then be seen not as a simple offshoot of European institutions, but rather as one of a set of possible tools in the heart of a network offering the possibility of creating a space for trade union action across the EU.


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