Since 1996, NETLEX, the ETUC network of trade union legal experts, has been seeking to build the capacities of both the ETUC and its member organizations in European social and economic law.
ETUI legal experts help forge the links between NETLEX and the academic community (i.e., proposing and conducting research within NETLEX, ensuring participation by academic experts in NETLEX working groups, etc.) and handle the overall coordination and servicing of the network.
The network’s main tasks are, firstly, to assist the ETUC Secretariat, Executive and Standing Committees over the legal aspects of policy priorities on EU matters, and secondly, to foster contacts between member organisations’ legal experts in order to monitor and follow up the implications of and new developments in EU litigation and regulation.
Although its primary aim is information exchange, the network also provides a forum for carrying out short-and medium-term research either internally or in cooperation with outside legal experts. The research agenda can change with EU institutions’ and ETUC policy priorities. It takes its cues mainly from EU labour and related law Directives, Commission Communications on labour law and related issues, and other position papers from EU Institutions like the European Parliament, ETUC Resolutions and action programmes, and the European social partners’ autonomous work programmes.
NETLEX also considers pending European legal issues in labour, social and constitutional law, but also competition and economic law when required, such as the future of labour law and the impact of the economic and financial crises, developments affecting a range of social Directives covered by the European Commission's Better Regulation agenda and fitness check but also revisions of social Directives. It also keeps ECJ and ECtHR case law on workers’ rights under close review as part of the ETUC litigation Network.
Additionally, NETLEX has both sectoral and regional dimensions:
- The ETUC and European Trade Union Federations are often faced with the need to review the application of the different international and European (labour) law instruments to the different sectors. NETLEX can help through researching international and European (labour) law issues for the sector concerned.
- NETLEX created the ‘South East of Europe NETLEX’ - a network of trade union lawyers in the region. Again, this network aims to foster contacts between colleagues and also to provide assistance and prepare research on topics currently under scrutiny in the region.