[Excerpt] In 1998, the European Commission set out the framework for sectoral dialogue committees with the aim of promoting dialogue between sectoral social partners at European level. The committees were set up as the central fora for consultation, joint initiatives and negotiation for the given sectors.
Union law does not make reference to the concept of representativeness. The Commission first used this concept in its 1993 Communication concerning the application of the Agreement on Social Policy. Representativeness became the key issue of dispute in a legal case in 1996 (UEAPME v. Council of the European Union, Case T-135/96). UEAPME challenged the legality of the Parental Leave Directive and the dispute became the subject of litigation before the European Court of First Instance (CFI). The CFI asserted that agreements reached through the social dialogue – which are then incorporated into directives – may be challenged on grounds of their democratic legitimacy. CFI deemed this necessary, since the Directive was not subject to scrutiny by the European Parliament. Since this ruling, it has been the legal responsibility of the European Commission to scrutinise to identify the European social partners who are eligible to engage in European social dialogue.
In 2006, the European Commission mandated Eurofound to carry out studies on the representativeness of European social partner organisations, with the aim of identifying the relevant national and supranational interest associations in the field of industrial relations in selected sectors. (Prior to 2006, the studies had been coordinated by the Catholic University of Louvain.)