European social dialogue is a unique and indispensable component of the European social model, with a clearly defined basis in the EC Treaty. It refers to the discussions, consultations, negotiations and joint actions undertaken by the social partner organisations representing the two sides of industry (management and labour).
At European level, social dialogue takes two main forms - a bipartite dialogue between the European employers and trade union organisations, and a tripartite dialogue involving interaction between the social partners and the public authorities.
European social dialogue has resulted in a variety of outcomes, including the adoption of over 300 joint texts by the European social partners. Combining the values of responsibility, solidarity and participation, European social dialogue complements the national practices of social dialogue which exist in most Member States.
Furthermore, it is the essential means by which the social partners assist in the definition of European social standards, and play a vital role in the governance of the Union. European-level social dialogue has received strong institutional recognition in the EC Treaty and in the conclusions to a number of key European Council meetings, notably those in Laeken and Barcelona.