Social Economy Europe is delighted to announce that this 13th of June, the European Commission has published its Council recommendation on developing social economy framework conditions. This is an important milestone of the European Social Economy Action Plan implementation. The fact that the recommendation exists is already per se an important recognition of SE and crucial to help the dissemination of SE. June 15th the Social Economy Expert Group (GECES) met and it was the opportunity for the Commission to further explain its aim and constraints.
The document is ambitious and tackles many different aspects. It starts out by outlining the context of the proposal explaining thoroughly the added value of social economy, the challenges it faces as well as the objective of the proposal. Then it proposes concrete recommendations organized in two main parts. One section focuses on “fostering access to the labour market and social inclusion through social economy” and tackles topics such as skills, social innovation, sustainable economic development and territorial cohesion. The other one addresses “developing enabling frameworks for the social economy” and tackles access to public and private funding, access to market and public procurement, social aid, taxation, social impact measurement and management, visibility and recognition of SE. The recommendation concludes on how the EU will support its implementation, as well as its monitoring and evaluation. Let’s underline that recommendations usually do not tackle legal frameworks (and therefore are not as binding as directives), which makes this recommendation on legal framework quite unusual.
The recommendation goes in the right direction, tackles extensive points and crucial issues. It is in line with the European Pillar of Social Rights and during the GECES meeting, the Commission explained that any recommendation must be based on a maximum of 3 articles of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union. Furthermore, given that it is the EPSCO (Employment and Social affairs Ministers of Member States) that will adopt, amend and or reject the recommendations, the global approach is very much linked to labour market and social integration.
Given this context, the work of the Commission to broaden the topic to many more aspects such as taxation, public procurement and more, is a well-executed delicate exercise we applaud. All the most that the recommendation also pushes for dialogue between Social economy organizations and representatives with public authorities in different sectors and at different levels (from local to national). The downside to the entry point of the recommendation is that these technicalities contain (as it is often the case) the perception of social economy to its social inclusion dimension, which is important but does not recover all SE dimensions, even in terms of labour. For instance, it barely addresses social innovation in fields such as support to non-standard forms of employment or even the collective entrepreneurship. Furthermore, the angle of labour and social inclusion provides little room to the diversity of economic and legal models, and the diversity of SE’s participation to social and economic development, if not on very specific points. This approach therefore somehow waters down the recognition of the important impact of SE in the economic, industrial and local development, all the most as SE also participates to the development of non-relocatable jobs.
As social economy is a people centred economy, it is crucial that it is capable of demonstrating its impact and the recommendation suggests supporting such strand of work in many ways. As SEE we wants to stress the importance of co-designing these metrics and evaluations with SE actors in order to make sure that the specific contributions of SE are not bypassed by classic econometrics that were built for for-profit companies. Links with OECD work on impact measurement is crucial as well the and continuous dialogue with SE stakeholders.
And finally, a last point of attention, it is important that the definition and conception of social economy do not prejudice the national legal frameworks of countries with a strong SE legal frame.
Even though SEE is happy to see such a good base of work, which has taken onboard much of SEE’s input to the consultative phase of this recommendation, we will analyse more in depth each point together with our members and share it widely with social economy actors and the EC.
Now the ball is in the hands of the Ministers of Employment and Social affairs, they have the power to adopt these recommendations. This means they will be negotiating amongst MS, possible amendments or even non-take up are possible in the coming months. In the meantime, what is in the hands of SE actors, national federations and representative organizations is to meet their Ministers of employment, to advocate for improvement and, most of all, to push for the adoption of this recommendation. Certainly, some elements will have to be adapted to national economic and cultural contexts, which are very different from one country to another, especially the weight of SE in the social and economic fabric. But only a coordinated work of national SE actors and sympathizers can ensure that governments understand the importance and full potential of SE (even beyond what is recommended) to undertake the economic transitions our world needs, that is, a people centred, fair and democratically governed economy.
 The recommendations are based on the TFEU articles 292, 149 & 153;