Social Dialogue in the Eastern Partnership Countries

Eurasia Partnership Foundation (EPF) committed to draft an outline for the study Social Dialogue in the EaP partner countries (EaP 6) at the EaP Civil Society Forum in Brussels last fall. This is the first draft of the outline. The draft will be open for your comments and suggestions until March 19, 2010. Please feel free to disseminate this letter and invite your colleagues to contribute to the drafting of Social Dialogue in the EaP 6. EPF will summarize your comments and re-draft the study outline accordingly for the final discussions at the WG2 meeting in April, 2010. 
EPF and its Caucasus Research and Resource Centers (CRRC) program, with offices in Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia, will serve as a lead organization in developing and drafting the study outline. We are ready to lead the study team, draft funding proposal(s), and carry out the research in the South Caucasus countries as well. We are inviting expressions of interest on behalf of individuals and organizations to join the study team. Please indicate (1) your specific interest in the study, (2) research capacity, and (3) individual/organization’s experience in administering and/or conducting similar studies. Please post your comments on the time-frame, research team selection process, and fundraising opportunities on this blog. 

Social Dialogue in the Eastern Partnership Countries 

The first Civil Society Forum for the Eastern Partnership (EaP) initiative was held in Brussels on November 16-17, 2009. In the Economic Integration and Policy Convergence Working Group (WG2), participants highlighted the need for social dialogue, stressing that regular consultations with CSOs (chambers of commerce, business and trade associations, employers unions, trade unions, and NGOs) would support the formulation of Association Agreements and deep and comprehensive free trade agreements (DCFTA). Social dialogue, a substantial basis of the European social model, should be adequately introduced as a means for EaP countries to secure the necessary stability to achieve economic reforms, transition to market economies, promote the general development of the society, and improve living standards.[1] The WG tasked Eurasia Partnership Foundation (EPF) with drafting an initial terms of reference for studying the situation and identifying gaps in the social dialogue policies and practices of the EaP 6.[2] With the publication of these initial terms of reference, EPF invites experts from the European Union and EaP countries to review the proposed components of the social dialogue study and/or express their interest in being a part of the research team by March 19, 2010.
For the purpose of the suggested study, social dialogue is defined as a type of cooperation among social partners, state institutions, and local governments aimed at balancing the interests of different segments of society in social and economic issues, and at ensuring internal social stability.[3] This definition is in compliance with the International Labour Organization (ILO) concept[4] and also includes assessment of social interactions at the company level. European social dialogue takes two main forms – a tripartite dialogue involving the public authorities and a bipartite dialogue between European employers and trade unions. Conventional social partners are trade unions and employers associations.


The objective of the study of the social dialogue in the EaP 6 is to assess the current level of social dialogue within the EaP 6, compare this level across the EaP 6, and define the capacity building needs of the respective social partners as well as the legal and administrative frameworks for developing social dialogue at the national and company levels. The study will determine the potential for using the EU’s new member states’ (NMS) experience of social dialogue to promote policies that improve social and labor standards in the region and facilitate the economic development and European approximation of the countries concerned.
The specific objectives of the research are:
    • Evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of social dialogue capacities at both a sectoral and company level in each country;
    • Identify needs for further research to assess the impact of social dialogue on the overall economic development of the country and the region.

Needs of the study

The EaP framework was officially indorsed in May 2009 as new means for the EU to encourage alignment with its eastern neighbors on political and economic terms. EaP presents an opportunity to conclude deep and comprehensive free trade agreements based on the results achieved under the European Neighborhood Policy Action Plan (ENP AP) envisaging, inter alia, alignment on labor conditions and development of conditions for social dialogue. The governmental multilateral thematic platform for economic integration and policy convergence under EaP emphasizes the need for exchanging views and experience on conducting social dialogue between the EU and EaP 6. Social dialogue is a cross cutting issue discussed under EaP multilateral platforms for i) Good Governance, Democracy and Human Rights and ii) Economic Integration and Convergence with EU policies. The social dialogue study, therefore, will serve as a benchmark for progress in building civil societies in the EaP 6 and facilitating global integration of their economies. 

Example of Georgia

There are three major social partners in Georgia: Georgian Trade Union Confederation[5] (GTUC), Georgian Employers Association (GEA), and the Georgian Government (GoG). The tripartite dialogue was formally launched[6] in December 2008 when a memorandum on initiating the social dialogue was signed by the social partners. Further, the Prime Minister of Georgia issued a legal act[7] establishing a tripartite social dialogue committee (TSDC).[8] Despite attempts made thus far, the improvement of social dialogue has not yet brought practical outputs in legal or policy reforms via consensus among the social partners. Furthermore, public debates on other economic policy reforms remain limited.


Information for this research project will be obtained using a questionnaire designed to examine the organizational, financial, and human resource or personnel capacities for social dialogue at the national government and company level in each EaP 6 country.
Representatives from major employer or trade union organizations, companies, and experts in social-labor relations will be interviewed to analyze the situation with regard to collective bargaining practices and capacities at sectoral and company levels.
Further, the study will include an analysis of the existing legal framework to promote social dialogue and ensure freedom of association and possibilities for collective bargaining within the target region. In addition the practice of anti-union human resource management strategies and implications of investment-friendly environment policies will be analyzed.
The study will also present country-level data on the legal settlement of labor relations involving social partners, media coverage of social dialogue, and available literature on the topic. This will be gathered through the questionnaire, workshops, and national reports.

Who will use the study?

The results of the study would be useful for policy planning by the public authorities, policy makers, and researchers of social fields and CSOs, especially in terms of building capacity of the social partner organizations. The comparison and analysis of social dialogue in the EaP 6 countries will identify activities that should be included in projects to promote experience sharing among partner countries. The recommendations will be useful for intergovernmental platforms within the EaP on good governance and economic integration as well as for substantiating the positions by the EaP civil society forum participants. Last but not least, the social partners themselves would have a better vision for drafting their development plans. One of the outcomes of the study could also be enhanced regional cooperation among the Eastern partners on labor standards policies and possibilities for creating social partner coalitions and networks on the regional level.


[1] Recommendation of the EaP CSF II WG

[2] The Eastern Partnership initiative relates to six countries: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine.
[3] Guidelines for the Government (Latvia) Communication Policy 2008-2013 

[4] Social Dialogue envisages “all types of negotiations, consultation or simply exchange of information between or among representatives of governments, employers and workers, on issues of common interest relating to economic and social policy.”

[5] GTUC is a locally registered non-for-profit organization. GTUC is lobbying the Government to adopt the principal provisions in the Labor Code for adequate labor rights and standards.
[6] GTUC, GEA and the Ministry of Health, Labor and Social Protection signed a memorandum to institutionalize social dialogue.
[7] The Prime Minister of Georgia issued a decree (#335 from November 12, 2009) establishing the Tripartite Social Dialogue Commission (TSDC) and assigning a working group to elaborate the statutes of the Commission.


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