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European Sectoral Dialogue

The Sectoral Dialogue Committees facilitate sectoral social dialogue at European level. This dialogue is essential for the implementation of European social policy.


Commission Decision 98/500/EC of 20 May 1998 on the establishment of Sectoral Dialogue Committees promoting the Dialogue between the social partners at European level (Text with EEA relevance).


Social dialogue is an essential element of the social model and European governance. Consultation with European social partners contributes to the development of European social policy and the definition of social standards.

Thus, pursuant to Article 152 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), the European Union (EU):

  • recognises and promotes the role of the social partners at European level;
  • facilitates dialogue between the social partners, respecting their autonomy.

According to Article 154 of the TFEU, the Commission consults social partners before submitting legislative proposals in the area of social policy. This consultation aims at guiding EU action and, if the Commission considers it necessary, assessing the content of legislation.

Consultation with European social partners could lead to contractual relations, including agreements, according to the terms of Article 155 of the TFEU.

European sectoral dialogue is led by representatives of European employers and employees, grouped by economic sector of activity. It represents a level of discussion and negotiation that enables a better understanding of the issues facing each sector.

Sectoral dialogue committees

The social partners in an occupational sector may make a joint request to establish a sectoral dialogue committee. These committees shall be consulted on all Community developments which have social implications. They facilitate sectoral social dialogue.

Employers’ organisations and trade unions from the sector must meet certain criteria:

  • they shall relate to specific sectors or categories and be organised at European level;
  • they shall consist of organisations which are themselves a part of Member States' social partner structures and have the capacity to negotiate agreements, and which are representative of several Member States;
  • they shall have adequate structures to participate in the work of the Committees.

Committees have been established in forty occupational sectors and cover the essential European economic activities (agriculture, fisheries, industry, trade, personal services and services to businesses, banks, postal services, transport, sport, events, audiovisual media, telecommunications, temporary employment, local and regional government, etc.).

Membership and operation

The sectoral dialogue committees meet at least once a year. They are made up of 64 members. They are generally chaired in turn by a trade union or employer representative or, at their request, by a representative of the Commission.

Each committee establishes a work programme in collaboration with the Commission.


The Commission promotes the development of sectoral social dialogue. Thus, the creation of sectoral social dialogue committees followed on from the 1998 Communication “Adapting and promoting the social dialogue at Community level”.

The 2002 Communication on “European social dialogue: a force for innovation and change” has improved the way dialogue structures operate and has made them more representative. In addition, in the 2004 Communication “Partnership for change in an enlarged Europe” the Commission encourages inter-sectoral cooperation and research into synergies at both national and European level.


ActEntry into forceDeadline for transposition in the Member StatesOfficial Journal

Decision 98/500/EC



OJ L 225 of 12.8.1998

Amending acts(s)Entry into forceDeadline for transposition in the Member StatesOfficial Journal

Regulation (EC) No 1792/2006



OJ L 362 of 20.12.2006


Commission staff working document of 22 July 2010 on the functioning and potential of European sectoral social dialogue [SEC(2010) 964 final – Not published in the Official Journal].
The Commission presents an assessment of sectoral social dialogue since 1998. This working document also proposes improvements relating to the scope and quality of the work done in this area.

Last updated: 17.07.2011
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