EU Governance, Social Protection and Employment Policies in Europe
Edited by Jean-Claude Barbier, Ralf Rogowski and Fabrice Colomb
Chapter 3: European social dialogue as multi-level governance: Towards more autonomy and new dependencies
Almost 20 years ago the Maastricht Treaty introduced procedures for European social dialogue, as part of a larger package of measures to strengthen the social dimension of European integration. The European social partners received the competence to become, in principle, co-regulators of the European labour market. The conventional reading of the evolution of European social dialogue since its inception is that it has evolved from a relationship of dependency of the European social partners on the European institutions for the implementation of their framework agreements, towards a more autonomous position in which the social partners have opted to focus on autonomous framework agreements and other ‘new generation texts’, including joint reports, recommendations, compendia of good practice, and so on, which are not directed at the European institutions in order to secure implementation. In this chapter we want to challenge and move beyond this rather linear and one-dimensional conceptualisation of the evolution of European social dialogue. Empirically, we will show that there has not been a straightforward move away from the ‘implementation through Directive’ mode in favour of autonomous agreements. Analytically, we will argue that framing the issue in terms of dependency or autonomy does not do justice to the complexity of relationships that are involved in the European social dialogue and the European sector social dialogue, and in the implementation of framework agreements and other new generation texts. Also it accords little attention to the role of power in the relationships involved. We draw on a multi-governance perspective to analyse the dynamics of European social dialogue, which allows us to capture the relevant multiple horizontal and vertical relationships, or interdependencies, between the European and national, and public and private, actors involved. Interdependency implies the presence of both autonomy and dependence in a relationship, and our central proposition is that these interdependencies simultaneously enhance and limit the capacity of the European social partners to make and implement agreements.
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