European social partners, Commission and Belgian Presidency sign Val Duchesse declaration

Val Duchesse Social Partners summit 31 January Brussels

(1st February 2024) Almost 40 years after the first European Val Duchesse meeting on social dialogue the chateau hosted the signing of a declaration affirming the role of the social dialogue in the European Union. The declaration was signed by the European employers and trade unions, the President of the European Commission and the Belgian Presidency for the European Council.

The signatory parties underline the essential role of the Social Dialogue at cross-sectoral and sectoral level, anchored in the Treaty. It is part of the European Social Model and European democracy. Commitments are made:

  • To address labour and skill shortages, stressing the right to quality and inclusive education, training and lifelong learning as contained in the Pillar of Social Rights. An Action Plan to address labour and skill shortages is expected in Spring this year.
  • To respect and promote the social dialogue, and the autonomous role of unions and employers.
  • To set up a European Social Dialogue envoy to promote the role of social dialogue at European and national level.
  • To launching discussions on a pact for European social dialogue, with the aim to reinforce the European Social dialogue. These discussions will address the institutional and financial support for the social dialogue, capacity building of national and European employers and trade unions, the involvement of social partners in the candidate countries in social dialogue and discussions on the implementation of autonomous agreements and agreements implemented via a Council decision and a European Directive.

These discussions should conclude in early 2025.

The declaration follows the announcement of a Social Summit in the State of the European Union address of September 2023. It reacts to the failure of the European cross-sectoral negotiations on the right to disconnect after the employers in BusinessEurope walked away from an agreement. The European Parliament has called for action on the right to disconnect which was repeated at a Conference on the rights to disconnect. The  European central government trade unions and employers have called for the implementation of their agreement through a Directive.

The EPSU General Secretary was part of the ETUC delegation that negotiated the text of Val Duchesse based on a mandate from the ETUC Executive Committee in December 2023. An extra-ordinary Executive Committee validated that ETUC could sign, 29 January. He joined the delegation that met with employers, Commission President and Prime Minister of Belgium for the debate and signing in Val Duchesse, 31 January 2024, Brussels

He joined the ETUC group for the remembrance ceremony of former Commission President Jacques Delors together with family, heads of state (in Brussels for the European Summit of 1 February) and Commission officials. Jacques Delors, a former union activist and lifelong member of French trade union CFDT, is held in high esteem in the trade union community. The first Val Duchesse meeting with the social partners in 1985 and which ultimately led to the Treaty articles (151-155) anchoring the social dialogue in the EU was organised by him.

For the declaration signed by the ETUC, the employers, the Commission President and the rotating Presidency of the European Council. (For the declaration in Ukrainian)

For the ETUC Press Release

For more on the Val Duchesse process from the Commission

The European Parliament and the right to disconnect conference 31 January 2024

Trade union leaders on Jacques Delors, former Commission President (ETUI)

EPSU tribute to Delors