EESC welcomes the Social Economy Action Plan

On the 18th of May 2022, the Economic and Social Committee published an Opinion on the Social Economy Action Plan, whose rapporteur is Giuseppe Guerini, member of the Diversity Europe Group as well as President of CECOP. 

Starting from the underlying assumption that EESC welcomes and supports the Action Plan, the opinion is built upon three main sections, namely conclusions and recommendations, general comments and background, and specific comments, that delve into the number of initiatives and elements that the Plan set out.  

1. Conclusions and Recommendations

Within the conclusions and recommendations, the EESC welcomes that the multiple topics supported by the Committee over the years coincide with the targets and main dimensions of SEAP. However, since the potential of the social economy in the Member States has not been fully exploited, medium and long-term actions should be prioritised. Among them, it is important to target young people, families, and vulnerable people as well as strengthen the national recovery and resilience plans toward social inclusion, education, and employment. At the same time, EESC recognises the pivotal role of social economy in current circumstances of war in Ukraine, as an enabler of aid and support to communities and refugees. 

2. General comments and Background

In the scope of general comments and background, EESC wishes to see the set up of clearer medium and long-term objectives beyond 2023, targeting and tailoring specific approaches for the “ecosystem” and guaranteeing a smooth transition.

Meanwhile, the EESC stresses the absence of a legal definition of “social economy”, yet it highlights that the action plan is identifying 3 main characteristic features of the undertakings. The EESC stimulates the joint coordination among Commission and Member States to design and format legal frameworks of social economy so as to ensure a proper implementation of the action plan.

Social economy entities are operating in various sectors around the EU by creating higher employment rates, advancing economic values as well as invigorating disadvantaged inhabitants or locations. However, EESC stresses that the variety of legal and executive structures of these entities is incompatible with the “one-size-fits-all” approach. In this regard, Commission should undertake the leadership role for appropriate coordination of the line of actions.

Among the presented initiatives, the action plan highlights the use of the potential of a young generation, as key actors and future entrepreneurs promoting the social economy within the EU. In this regard, it is highly recommended to boost a culture of entrepreneurship through the establishment of a new Youth Entrepreneurship Academy.

3. Specific comments

As far as specific comments are concerned, the Opinion takes into consideration four macro areas, namely relations between public administrations and social economy entities, state aid, investments and financial instruments and a tax policy which recognises functions that are in the general interest.

Concerning the first point, the EESC stresses the importance of improving collaboration between public administrations and social economy legal forms to render services of general interest more efficient, more transparent, more affordable and more equal. By promoting the idea of “shared administration”, social economy entities will have the role to foster governance, especially at local levels.

The state aid part focuses on the necessity of targeted investments to ensure a good understanding of European state aid rules by public authorities. In parallel, regulations and soft law instruments should support in providing reliable and comprehensive information on access to state aid.

Among investments and financial instruments, EESC welcomes SEAP commitment to facilitate access to financial instruments for social economy entities as well as its objective to set forth new financial products under InvestEU. Yet, EESC suggests to establish a “Guarantee fund for social economy entities” in each Member State in order to ease access to credit.

Eventually, tax policies which recognise functions that are in the general interest have to accompany social economy entities and local communities. At the same time, EESC welcomes the mention of SEAP towards the establishment of tax provisions specific to the social economy and wishes to see a concrete coordinated fiscal harmonisation.

In conclusion, this Opinion is comprehensive in nature, identifying the achievements of the SEAP as well as areas in which work has still to be done. It undoubtedly represents a good starting point from which to begin the process of implementation. In this sense, Social Economy Europe supports EESC Opinion and would like to renew its willingness to cooperate with EU institutions, Member States and social economy stakeholders in order to make SEAP implementation concrete, developing an economy that works for the people and the planet.

An article written by GAYANE SIMONYAN (SEE intern) and SARA BOMBARDIERI (Policy and Projects Assistant)

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