On Wednesday, February 6th the Social Economy Intergroup (SEIG) of the European Parliament held a meeting with members of the European Parliament, members of the EESC, the European Committee of the Regions, Social Economy Europe and representatives of social economy enterprises.
The objective was to take stock of what has been achieved in the last 5 years in social economy in the European Union. A general overview was provided on great progress to recognize social economy as a part of economic and social growth.
Social economy in the EU represents 14 million people who work in social economy enterprises and it is 8% of the european GDP. Social economy was a resilient economy following the 2007 financial crisis. Social, economic and environmental criteria are the pillars of the social economy enterprises.
The objective of social economy in the European Union is to contribute to the EU’s employment, social cohesion, regional and rural development, environmental protection, consumer protection, agricultural, and social security policies. To put it in a nutshell, social economy aims to implement sustainable development. Social economy enterprises are able to meet the global challenges that faces the European Union but they need financial support and more recognition from the European institutions.
The stakeholders and members of the EESC and members of the European Parliament pointed out that the European Commission has to take measures to implement a legal and financial framework for the social enterprises.
2 main measures are to:
- Increase degree of recognition: the European Commission should review legislation, share good practices, support innnovative projects, collect statistical data and take into consideration all social enterprises, mutuals and cooperatives included. Social enterprises lack opportunities to cooperate with other European social enterprises. They can benefit from all European programmes such as COSME, the Structural Funds the Regional Development Fund or the European Social Fund. However most of the social enterprises do not have the human and financial resources to participate to the programmes.
- Implement a global action plan between all stakeholders in order to submit it to the European Commission. Increasing the communication between representatives of social enterprises, members of the EESC and members of the SEIG could enhance the visibility of social economy. Coordination would contribute to make a political agenda of social economy in the European Union. Facilitating the access to digital technology is also a key for the development of social enterprises.
To conclude, participants proposed recommendations:
- Setting up an action plan for the social economy in the EU with concrete and political measures for the social economy
- Making a plea for social economy to adress to the European institutions in order to meet environmental, economic and social challenges
- Appointing a European Commissioner for social economy
So much progress has been done in social economy but so many steps left to a European Union based on social justice. In front of climate change, populism and the citizens' mistrust of institutions at all levels, social economy can be a key to shape a sustainable model based on social and democratic values.