Social protocol (PRT)

For proposals that relate to social policy issues the European Commission is obliged to involve social partners in the decision making process. The involvement of the social partners may move beyond an advisory role: member states can decide to have social partners draw up secondary legislation, albeit within certain boundaries. This apsect is what makes the social protocol different from the other procedures for establishing secondary legislation. However, the social protocol is only possible in a limited number of social policy areas.

In short the procedure proceeds as follows: the basic legislation is established in accordance with the ordinary legislative procedure or one of the special legislative procedures, depending on the subject. During this process the social partners are asked for advice. The social partners can then indicate whether they wish to take on drawing up secondary legislation. Individual member states, too, may, in consultation with the European Commission, entrust the social partners on a national level to draw up secondary legislation.



social protocol


Social protocol in detail

Step 1: establishing rules

Proposals on the following topics will be made in accordance to the ordinary legislative procedure:

  • improving the working environment to protect workers health and safety
  • determining employment conditions
  • the information provision for and consultation of workers
  • the integration of disadvantaged people in the labour market
  • equality between men and women with regard to labour market opportunities and treatment at the workplace
  • combating social exclusion
  • the modernisation of social protection systems

The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC), the Committee of the Region (CoR) and the social partners are consulted.

Proposals relating to the following areas will be made in accordance to one of the special legislative procedures:

  • social security
  • protection of workers where their employment contract is terminated
  • the right to representation and collective defence of the interests of workers and employers
  • the conditions under which people from countries outside the EU should work

The Council of Ministers, by unanimity, decides, on the proposal after consulting the European Parliament, the EESC, the CoR and the social partners.

For almost all of the above names policy areas the EU only has competence to adopt legislation that encourages cooperation and the exchange of information between member states, or establish minimum requirements for the implementation of legislation in the above mentioned areas. To combat social exclusion and to modernise social protection systems, the EU may only provide proposals for improving cooperation between member states.

Step 2: Possible transfer of powers to social partners

There are two ways in which social partners can be involved in the elaboration of the proposed legislation:

  • 1. 
    each member state determines whether they want the social partners to be in involved in drawing up secondary legislation. Secondary legislation is a national issue.
  • 2. 
    the social partners themselves indicate they wish to take on drawing up secondary legislation. They do so at the European level.

Step 3: social partners drawing up secondary legislation

In the first case, an agreement is drawn up between the member state concerned and their social partner counterparts. The member state must ensure social partner implement measures.

In the second case, when dealing at the European level, an agreement is drawn up by the social partners. That agreement is submitted to the Council by the Commission. The Council decides, according to the voting procedure described in step 1. The European Parliament is informed on the decision made.


Application of the social protocol

This procedure is only used only for subjects mentioned above. In all other areas where social partners play a role, their involvement does not go beyond an advisory role.


Legal framework

The social protocol is based on the Treaty on European Union and the Treaty on the functioning of the European Union.

  • mandatory consultation partners: part three TfEU titel X art. 154
  • restriction range of topics: part three TfEU titel X art. 153, 1
  • procedure used:gebruikte procedure: part three TfEU titel X art. 153, 2 and 3, art. 155, 2


Further information