EU Summit in Strasbourg to join forces for an ambitious SEAP implementation

On the 5th and 6th May 2022, the city of Strasbourg hosted the European Conference “The Social Economy, the Future of Europe”, held at the Palais de la Musique et des Congrès. The event, that can be considered as the most important EU social economy summit in 2022, gathered over 2000 registered participants from all over Europe and other regions of the world, and was organised in the framework of the French Presidency of the Council of the EU, with a key involvement of the city and euro-metropolis of Strasbourg, the French Government, Grand Est Region, Alsace, the European Commission, the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC), and the Committee of the Regions.

Social Economy Europe (SEE) along members and partners as ESS-France, CRESS Grand Est, Pôle ESS Strasbourg, REVES, RTES, Le Labo, FEBEA, SOGA Europe, SSE International Forum, FAIR, and PLS, also actively contributed to the organisation of this high-level EU Social Economy Summit.  

Mobilising social economy’s potential to re-build Ukraine:

To open the event, the Mayor of Strasbourg Jeanne Barseghian invited guests of honour Petro Darmoris, Board member of the Ukrainian Social Academy, and Alina Bocharnikova, Social Entrepreneurship Program Coordinator at the Future Development Agency of Ukraine to join the main stage, two of the social economy entities that form the dynamic social economy ecosystem of the country. While Bocharnikova held a flag of Ukraine, Darmoris addressed the audience and announced that the Ukrainian Social Academy just joined the European Social Economy family by becoming a member of Social Economy Europe. He recalled that Ukraine has a long history of social economy entrepreneurship, with over 15,000 co-operatives operating in the country at the beginning of the XX Century in areas including forestry, agriculture and banking, all working “for the social purposes of preserving and developing culture, schooling [and] inclusion”. A local development model, driven by citizens that was ‘erased’ because of the soviet invasion in 1919. After its independence in 1991, and the Maidan revolution of 2014, the country experienced a renewed dynamism of social economy initiatives. Darmoris stressed the need to further integrate Ukraine into the European Union, as well as to mobilise the full potential of the social economy to re-build the country, providing work integration opportunities for those who are currently internally displaced. In conclusion, he called for Ukraine to be included in the European Social Economy Action Plan

We have a lot to share, because we know how social enterprises can play a role in wartime and post-war recovery. At the same time, we count on support with different investments, and investments of time, investments of expertise, your experience, and financial resources. Today, we are all and we are personally open to any concrete action we can do together, to any investment or donation you would like to make, to any strategic partnership we can establish to the future of the European Ukraine, into the future of the whole Europe.
Petro Darmoris
Board member of the Ukrainian Social Academy & SEE

The opening also gathered other key stakeholders and policy makers as Valdis Dombrovskis, EC Executive Vice-President for an economy that works for people (read his full speech here), Othmar Karas, Vice-President of the European Parliament, Christa Schweng, President of the EESC, Apostolos Tzitzikostas, President of the Committee of the Regions, Yolanda Díaz, Vice-President of the Spanish Government and Minister of Labour and Social Economy, and Olivia Grégoire, State Secretary in charge of Social and Solidarity Economy of France, among other representatives of the euro metropolis, the region, and Alsace. In her speech, Spanish Vice-President Yolanda Díaz announced that the social economy will be among the main priorities of the Spanish Presidency of the Council in the second half of 2023, and that Spain is about to launch a major investment plan into the social economy, mobilising Next Generation EU Funds.

Making the most out of the Social Economy Action Plan

The official opening was followed by a high-level panel on the Social Economy Action Plan (SEAP) implementation with Commissioner Nicolas Schmit (Jobs and Social Right) and key social economy stakeholders as Juan Antonio Pedreño, President of SEE, Diana Ghinea, Companion (Sweden), Deirdre Garvey, CEO of the Wheel (Ireland), and Angela Achitei, President of ADV Foundation (Romania).

The Social Economy Action Plan was born in December and the baby now has a big family around him”, this is the metaphor that Commissioner Nicolas Schmit used in his opening remarks to underline that the Action Plan is not merely a possession of the Commission anymore, but it is owned by all Europeans, EU Institutions, MS and other local and regional public authorities, and social economy stakeholders that now have the joint mission to make it a European success through its implementation.

SEE President Juan Antonio Pedreño stressed that the objective of Social Economy Europe’s network is to use this opportunity window to support the scaling up of all social economy actors across Europe in the next 8 years.

Today, the social economy represents 6.3% of all jobs in the EU, representing up to 10% of jobs in some big countries, but just between 0.6% and 2% in other where the ecosystem is less developed. Our objective is to scale up to create more jobs for all, to drive change, innovation, and fair green and digital transitions. The social economy should represent 10% of all EU jobs by 2030.
Juan Antonio Pedreño
Juan Antonio Pedreño
President of SEE

Pedreño explained that to do so, actions such as the Council Recommendation on developing social economy framework conditions to be adopted in 2023, the EU Single Social Economy Gateway, or the support to the consolidations of EU and national social economy networks are of outmost importance. Furthermore, he announced that SEE will publish a policy paper with recommendations on SEAP implementation in the next month.

The Pact for Skills for the Social Economy and Proximity ecosystem was launched!

On May 6, Deputy Director General Hubert Gambs (DG Grow), along with Head of Unit Anna Athnasopoulou, and two representatives of the social economy unit Karel Vanderpoorten, and Marie Boscher, and Social Economy Europe and EVPA representatives (Juan Antonio Pedreño, Victor Meseguer and Bianca Polidoro, presented the Social Economy and Proximity Skills Alliance, a joint declaration for the upskilling and reskilling of social economy and proximity employees and entrepreneurs supported by over 90 key stakeholders including European and trans-national social economy organisations, national and regional social economy organisations, education providers, research centres and universities, regional and local authorities, and clusters.

Commissioner for the Internal Market, Thierry Breton, said: “Through innovative and inclusive business models, the Proximity and Social economy ecosystem has greatly contributed to the EU’s resilience and its green and digital transitions. Thanks to the Pact for Skills, each industrial ecosystem is now working together to equip themselves with the right skills to address today’s economic and social challenges. Today’s partnership for skills will provide life-long learning opportunities for social economy entrepreneurs and organisations.”

Commissioner for Jobs and Social Rights, Nicolas Schmit, said: “Thanks to its strong local roots, the social economy can offer innovative bottom-up solutions to many of the global challenges of today, such as climate change, digitisation and social exclusion by putting people’s needs at the centre. The social economy works with and for local communities and has a huge job creating potential. One of the aims of the action plan we presented last December is to increase the sector’s visibility and appeal to young entrepreneurs: this partnership for skills will help do exactly that.” 

The success of co-construction

SEE also co-organised, along with members and partners, 5 workshops in the framework of the social economy summit on key topics as:

  1. Solidarity Now! A Social Economy response to the crisis and a vision to re-build Ukraine
  2. Boosting Social Economy Entrepreneurship: Scaling up Social Economy Solutions
  3. Transition Pathways for the Proximity and Social Economy ecosystem
  4. Scaling up the Social Economy at Global level
  5. Producing Social Economy statistics and research to boost the visibility and understanding of the Social Economy

The conference was a success based on cooperation among EU, national, local and regional Institutions, and key social economy stakeholders. SEE wishes to congratulate all co-organisers and particularly the city and euro-metropolis of Strasbourg (and its human resources working on social economy, as Pierre Roth, Sandra Guilmin and their teams) and CRESS Grand Est.

All the photos taken by SEE during the event can be found here:

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