The 2016 quadri-partite statement on “a new start for social dialogue” included the following fields of action related to social partner capacity-building:

  • The cross-industry EU social partners agreed to ‘implement the actions agreed in their autonomous work programme 2015-2017 on improving capacity-building and implementation outcomes (…)”;
  • The European social partners since then published a report on the future of the European social fund / better supporting capacity building of social partner organisations in June 2018, which included a number of recommendations, notably to the European Commission and the ESF managing authorities, stemming from a thorough analysis of the existing use of ESF resources for social partners’ capacity building purpose.
  • The European Commission committed to “examine whether the use of European Structural and Investment Funds, notably the European social fund, can contribute to strengthening the capacity of national social partners by promoting social dialogue and capacity building”;
  • The Presidency of the Council recalled Member States’ agreement by Council conclusions to “promote the building and strengthening of the capacities of the social partners through different forms of support, including legal and technical expertise. This should be ensured at all relevant levels, depending on the needs of countries and social partners, including to become solid and representative organisations”.

The Opinion of the ESF Committee on the proposed regulation 2021-2027 for an ESF+ says that “an appropriate amount of ESF+ resources should be allocated for the capacity building of social partners involved at all stages of programming and implementation. Such capacity building could take the form of, among other things, training, networking measures and strengthening of social dialogue.” Building on this, the ESF Committee discussed the possible ways in which national social partners can benefit from capacity building support provided by the ESF through both shared and direct management. The Commission is also considering this, with a view to making concrete proposals going forward.

On the side of the social partners, it was acknowledged that a certain number of managing authorities have improved the involvement of social partners in the ESF programming phase compared to the previous financial period. Nevertheless, further improvements are needed to fully implement and strengthen the partnership principle and to better provide capacity building support for national social partners. The social partners also need to identify their concrete needs for capacity building support within their national/regional context. This includes their needs, which the ESF could help meet in helping to support social partners’ involvement in the European Semester process, and to achieve a better implementation of the outcomes of the European social dialogue.

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