Southern Neighbourhood
Economic development and social dialogue

The social partners from both sides of the Mediterranean met remotely on 6 and 7 October for the fourth social dialogue forum of the Union for the Mediterranean (UfM). This new edition of the forum took stock of the activities carried out by the European and South Mediterranean social partners in the framework of the UfM and set out the next steps in their cooperation paving the way for their future joint contribution to the UfM Ministerial Meeting on Employment and Labour in 2022.

In the presence of experts from the UfM Secretariat, the European Commission, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and other regional organisations, the forum focused on current and future priorities and challenges of the social dialogue in the UfM countries.

Two bilateral meetings between employers' and trade union organisations from both sides of the Mediterranean opened the forum. During the two working days, 117 participants discussed the main challenges of the Euro-Mediterranean labour market during the Covid-19 period, the role of social dialogue in migration and brain drain issues, multilateral cooperation as an engine for growth prospects and for the progress of social dialogue in and between the two shores of the Mediterranean. At the end of this 4th edition, the social partners of the Mediterranean region published joint operational conclusions.

The partners stressed that the Southern Mediterranean States are in a different situation than the Northern Mediterranean States where, although the pandemic has been more virulent, the economic measures taken by the European Union – notably through the historic recovery plan – have helped save thousands of jobs and businesses. The governments of the southern Mediterranean, lacking an efficient regional organization, have put in place plans that differ from one country to another. The pandemic has exacerbated an already fragile economic situation with high unemployment rates. With the fragility of the institutions and the problem of the informal sector, the economic stakes in the southern Mediterranean region are high.

In this context, participants at the 4th UfM Forum discussed how EU funding could be invested in recovery plans in the face of the Covid-19 crisis in the coming years. In this context, the social partners of the Southern Mediterranean have announced that they are preparing the second phase of the SOLID project, which has been widely welcomed by the European social partners since this project has the potential to strengthen the role of the social partners of the South through the promotion of social dialogue.

In addition, the social partners from both sides have called for companies to be encouraged to relaunch their activities as quickly as possible in order to avoid redundancies and losses in hours worked. Partners explained that if a second wave of the pandemic was inevitable, effective management would be mandatory. This management must involve collaboration between the social partners and the government in the implementation of the necessary protective measures. It will also depend on the proper application of ILO occupational safety and health standards. The partners also warned about the importance of social security mechanisms and recalled that the health crisis has lifted the veil on the threats posed by failing social security systems.

In accordance with the European Treaty and ILO standards, the UfM Social Dialogue Forum has been actively contributing since 2010 to the establishment and development of a balanced, independent and effective social dialogue at bi and/or tripartite level between UfM member countries. The 2020 edition comes a year and a half after the signing of the ‘Charter for the promotion of social dialogue in the countries of the southern shore of the Mediterranean: Jordan, Tunisia and Morocco’ in April 2019 in Cascais, Portugal. It also succeeds the 4th UfM Ministerial Meeting on Employment and Work held in Cascais in 2019 and precedes the one to be held in 2022.