This work programme established by the European social partners opened up a new era for the social dialogue, as the social partners no longer merely respond to consultations by the Commission but really flesh out their own priorities to be tackled within the foreseen time frame. The work programme consists of actions listed under three main priority themes: employment, enlargement and mobility.

The work programme involves a whole range of tools, such as studies, reports, joint declarations and seminars on a variety of topics: anticipation of change, modernising work organisation and improving working conditions, active ageing, mobility, equal opportunities and preventing discrimination, and youth employment. It envisages negotiation of autonomous agreements in respect of stress at work and harassment.

A substantial part of the programme is devoted to the enlargement of the European Union from 15 to 25 member states. The aim is capacity building of the social partners in the new Member States in the form of seminars and studies on issues such as industrial relations and the implementation of the acquis [1] and the involvement of the social partners of the candidate countries in implementing framework agreements or frameworks of action.

[1] The acquis includes the body of laws (Treaty provisions, regulations, directives, decisions, ECJ case-law and other EU legal measures, binding and non-binding), principles, policy objectives, declarations, resolutions and international agreements defining the social policy of the EU.