The article illustrates the role played by social partners in the process of elaboration and implementation of the European guidelines concerning employment. This role is one of the most problematic and least investigated facets of the new Open Method of Coordination (Omc) of the employment policies established by the Treaty and inaugurated in the European Council of Luxemburg 1997. This method is characterized by a complex non legally binding procedure of determination of European guidelines and of their implementation by member States through their national action plans (Naps). These plans adapt European guidelines to the specific national and local conditions of the labour market. While at the European level the necessity of a larger involvement of social partners in the European employment strategy - through different forms of social dialogue - is largely recognised, the Italian experience in the last few years is characterised by the abandoning of the method of social partnership, that had constituted the framework of reference for labour policies during the nineties - both at national and local level - with little consideration for the role that the social partners are asked to play in the entire new setting of the European strategy - following to the Lisbon summit - aiming towards targets of labour quality and strengthening of social cohesion.