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Social dialogue in this sector originally centred around the development of a fully-fledged European system of industrial relations, by means of reciprocal commitments. However, the many protracted reforms of the common agricultural policy also led to a new dimension in this SSD, namely lobbying of the European institutions.

As we have seen, this SSDC has been much affected by political developments within the EU: CAP reform, WTO negotiations, Agenda 2000 and the succession of enlargements. The topics addressed by the social partners relate mainly to working time, employment, social measures accompanying the reforms, vocational training and health and safety (apparently with little attention to sustainable development).

We have divided the history of this social dialogue into four phases for the sake of convenience. It would appear that the “development of a European system of industrial relations” was especially significant during the first phase (and to a lesser extent the third).

Paradoxically, and with the notable exception of the 2002 Recommendation on vocational training, there seem to have been fewer “reciprocal commitments” than tools, declarations and joint opinions since the formal creation of the SSDC.

We should not however underestimate the training tools, which have a real impact in countries not possessing such toolkits. One crucial outstanding issue is the monitoring and implementation of these joint texts at national level.

ETUI and Observatoire Social Européen (2010) European Sectoral Social Dialogue Factsheets. Project coordinated by Christophe Degryse, online publication available at www.worker-participation.eu/EU-Social-Dialogue/Sectoral-ESD