‘Better’ regulation package: Autonomy for the social dialogue at risk

21 May 2015

Earlier this week, the European Commission published its 'Better regulation package'. Reviewing the press and media coverage reveals the widespread concerns about the likely shift from political decision-making to 'expert' influence in European policy making as a result of this package. This criticism stretches from progressive MEPs to basically all social and environmental stakeholders. The only ones really happy are industry and business. While CESI agrees with many of the concerns that were raised in the debate on package, it deplores the lack of attention given to the autonomy for social dialogue that the package puts at risk.

‘Better’ regulation package: Autonomy for the social dialogue at risk

Under the Better regulation package’s future social partner consultation regime (based on TFEU articles 154-155), several procedural steps put the much needed and well-established autonomy for the EU social dialogue in question:

• An “analytical document” by the Commission is necessary between the first and second stage of a social partner consultation under TFEU article 154 in order to “explore the value added of EU action” on the topic at stake. In case the Commission officials do not see sufficient “value added” of EU action, the entire consultation procedure can be stopped. But how to objectively assess sufficient value added?

• When EU social partners have agreed on a social partner’s agreement on a particular topic in line with TFEU article 155, said article foresees that this agreement “shall be implemented … at the joint request of the signatory parties … by a Council decision on a proposal from the Commission”. Under the Better regulation package, the European Commission reserves the right to carry out an impact assessment on whether or not to accept a social partners’ agreement before taking any further steps. The same applies to agreed social partner agreements concluded in line with TFEU article 154(4). What is more, the wording in the of the package leaves some ambiguity about how the Commission will assess social partner agreements in its impact assessments.

• Oddly, even when social partners have NOT agreed on an agreement on a topic at stake, the Commission still reserves the right to go ahead with a proposal for a Council decision (of course after having carried out another impact assessment).

“Indeed, there will be many steps in the adoption of agreements under TFEU articles 154 and 155 which enable the Commission officials to obstruct at their convenience the well-proven autonomy for the EU social dialogue”, CESI Secretary General Klaus Heeger commented.

Please follow this link to access all documents related to the new ‘Better regulation package’.