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European Commission - Speech - [Check Against Delivery]

Tripartite Social Summit: Press remarks of Vice-President Dombrovskis on social dialogue and European Semester

Brussels, 16 March 2016

Let me first of all thank President Tusk, the Dutch Presidency, represented by Prime Minister Rutte, and the Social Partners for the very good discussions we had today.

The Commission has always highlighted that growth and jobs demand continued reform, and successful reform demands ownership and strong democratic legitimacy. We believe that social dialogue can contribute a great deal to that effort. And we need to hear social partners at all levels, and at times when their views can have the most impact. The Tripartite Social Summit is one of the many events on this larger agenda - though arguably the most important one. And today it has again proved its usefulness.

A year ago this month, a 'new start' for the social dialogue was launched, marked by the high-level conference that called for a renewed partnership between the Social Partners and EU institutions. Since then, a lot of progress has been achieved on many issues. The Commission has better involved Social Partners in the European Semester and in its policy and law-making, including in areas beyond strictly employment-related and social matters. The Social Partners agreed their own work programme and are contributing to some of the key flagship initiatives at European level - from the Investment Plan for Europe, to the Energy Union and the Digital Single Market. 

More recently, the Commission launched a broad consultation on the European Pillar of Social Rights. Ultimately, the role of the Pillar of Social Rights will be to outline a number of principles to support well-functioning and fair labour markets and welfare systems, respecting the subsidiarity principle and Member States' competences. The Pillar is part of the on-going work for a deeper and fairer Economic and Monetary Union, aimed to help the process of upward convergence, notably at euro area level.  At the consultation stage, we want to fine-tune our understanding of social challenges and possible needs to update the social acquis, drawing the lessons from the crisis but also looking ahead at the future of work and of our welfare systems. It goes without saying that social partners, both at EU and at national level, will be a vital source of knowledge and insights in this.

Migration and the refugee crisis will be at the core of tomorrow's European Council. This is also an integration challenge, to be tackled coherently across Europe. It has important social and economic components - for instance concerning access to labour markets - and so social partners have a major role to play. In our discussions and through Social Partners' statement on the refugee crisis, they have been vocal in their assessment and assistance on this issue. I would like to thank them for this.

We also had a good discussion on the European Semester. Over the last two weeks, the Commission has adopted its Winter Package: Country Reports describing the challenges in all Member States and summarising progress with the country-specific recommendations; in-depth reviews examining potential macroeconomic imbalances; and reminding Member States of their fiscal obligations. A discussion at Tripartite level was timely, ahead of the National Reform Programmes expected mid-April. And we repeated our commitment to have similar discussions also at national level and to push for the involvement of the social partners in the preparations of National Reform Programmes.On the content, we share the same views that Member States are making progress. But this progress is uneven, and reform efforts need to be sustained and often reinforced in order prepare economies for future shocks, to improve their competitiveness and to create jobs. 

So there is still a lot of work to be done. And today, we re-iterated our commitment to doing this together.


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