European Social Economy Conference in Liège: The Social Economy at the core of the transitions. 12-13 February

Great success of an unprecedented conference with the presence of 19 European governments in which Social Economy Europe participated and could observe some of its major advocacy lines promoted by Member States representatives.

The Social Economy at the core of the transitions conference took place in Liège on February 12 and 13, in the framework of the Belgian Presidency of the EU Council. Over 600 people participated, most of them social economy actors and grassroots organizations. They have been two intense days of exchanges, learning and celebration of the global momentum that the social economy is currently experiencing. It was a historic moment as never before has a European conference on social economy greeted as many Ministers and delegates: 19 EU Member States were represented. Many claimed that the social economy is essential and put it in the front line of their political agenda. 

February 12th, alongside of the Conference, the Ministers and Representatives attended the Monitoring Committee of the Luxembourg Declaration, a committee created during the Luxemburg Presidency Social Economy Conference in 2015, and whose role is to ensure and monitor the implementation of proper policies for SE. Social Economy Europe participated as observer, represented by its President Juan Antonio Pedreño, and was the only organization invited to the Committee. The main outputs of this Committee were the commitment to support the establishment of a secretariat that ensures continuity and pace of work of the Committee and the signature of the Liège Roadmap by 24 Member States. 

The Liège Roadmap:

The Liège Roadmap ratifies the importance of the social economy on the political agenda and complements the San Sebastian Manifesto.

The document proposes 25 commitments to boost the Social Economy in Europe including measures to ease the access to finance, to deploy regulatory frameworks and strategies, to raise awareness and improve the data collection on social economy, amongst others. 

It is important to highlight that two of these commitments signed by the Member States Governments and included in the Liège Roadmap are the appointment of a European Commissioner for Social Economy and the pursue of the implementation of the Social Economy Action Plan. Social Economy Europe is delighted to see 2 of its 3 main 2024 European Elections memorandum requests supported by a vast majority of EU governments!

The political reactions

The last plenary session with the Ministers of Wallonia (Belgium), France, Spain, Poland and Bulgaria gave to the audience the overview of the Liège Roadmap.

Christie Morreale, Vice-President of the Walloon Government (Belgium) and Minister for Employment and Social Economy highlighted the fact that 19 Member States have attended the conference. In her words, the “social economy is a credible, virtuous a sustainable economic model that needs to be supported by the States by recognizing the Social Economy in the National Laws and supporting the access to finance for the social economy”.

Maxime Baduel, Ministerial Delegate for Social Economy of France summarized the Liège Roadmap in 3 essential commitments to boost the social economy: to encourage the participation of social economy in private-public partnerships, to ease the access to finance for the social economy actors and to increase social economy visibility. Because, in his words, “We need economic democracy”. 

Amparo Merino Segovia, Secretary of State for Social Economy of Spain highlighted the commitment of the Spanish Government to social economy. She pointed out that the ecosystem is the best way to cater growth within the limits of the environmental and social sustainability, it is a feminist model of care economy. 

Katarzyna Nowakowska, Deputy Minister for Family, Labour and Social Policy of Poland pointed out the leading role of the social economy in the transitions and the necessity of upskilling and reskilling to increase the knowledge of social economy and promote the entrepreneurship. In her words “We need to make sure the Social Economy becomes our daily economy”. 

Ivanka Shalapatova, Minister of Labour and Social Policy of Bulgaria addressed the importance of easing access of social economy entities to markets and finance as well as of including SE in the value chains. She mentioned the necessity of increasing the visibility and improving statistics on social economy. Above all, she stressed the necessity of appointment an EU Commissioner with social economy in his/her portfolio. 

Insights from the EU Representatives

After Christie Morreale’s warm welcome speech, Nicolas Schmit EU Commissioner for Jobs and Social Rights intervened through a recorded speech in which he highlighted the momentum of the social economy in the EU Agenda and pointed out the fact that the social economy provides inclusive solutions in all economic sectors and activities. 

Oliver Ropke, President of the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) highlighted the importance of social economy for his institution as it is a leverage to achieve the goals of the European Pillar of Social Rights. He also stated: “Social Economy can play an important role for the inclusiveness and the green and digital transitions but to do so, social economy needs more investments and funds”. 

The plenary sessions:

This conference entitled “The social economy at the core of transitions” has focused on the inclusive, green and digital transitions with a dedicated plenary session to each one. 
Inclusive transition

This plenary session was opened by Nadine Richez-Battesti, Senior lecturer in Economics at Aix-Marseille University (France) who explained the necessity of changing the financial circuit and of deepening the knowledge on social economy as key actor for an inclusive transition, as it is sustainable on the long term and promotes social justice and it creates value.

SEE Vice-president, Alain Coheur mentioned the alarming figure of 95 million people in poverty throughout Europe and the role that SE can play to reduce it as a key actor of social innovation and health. To that end it is necessary to invest in social services provided by the social economy and to adapt legal framework and taxation. 

Heather Roy, Secretary General of Eurodiaconia and SEE member, stressed the importance of disseminating the figures related to how SE contributes to solving many of  the key challenges of society.

The session was closed with the intervention of Ludovic Voet, Confederal Secretary at ETUC (European Trade Union Confederation) who mentioned that the social economy is a solution for the labour market. He also highlighted the fact that social economy is an employer and should recognize itself as such and promote workers ‘rights. 
Digital transition

The plenary session devoted to digital transition started with a keynote by Michel Bauwens, founder of the P2P Foundation, in which he provided a thorough explanation of the different economic models that coexist in the digital sphere. 

Françoise Pissart, Director of the King Baudoin Foundation in Belgium showed some figures on digital vulnerability in Belgium pointing out that the 46% of the Belgium population is at risk of digital exclusion.

The session continued with the intervention of Sergio Pérez García, Director-General for Foreign Affairs of the Government of Navarra and Member of the Committee of the Regions (CoR). He focused on the necessity of investing in upskilling and reskilling for the digital transition of social economy and presented the innovative example of the European Business School that will be launched in 2026.

Our Director, Sarah de Heusch closed the session by highlighting the importance for social economy to digitize and learn how to collect data and use it to monitor trends and earn the social impact. She also mentioned the crucial role social economy plays in reducing the digital divide as well as in shaping a democratic digital space through social tech and digital commons approach. 
Green transition

Christian Arnsperger, professor of sustainability and economic anthropology in the University of Lausanne opened the plenary session on green transition by addressing a thoughtful explanation of the postgrowth model. 

The session continued with the intervention of Antonella Noya, Head of the social economy and innovation unit at OECD who talked about the relation between the circular and the social economy and highlighted the necessity of easing stakeholder engagement. 

Fabrice Collignon, Coordinator at REScoop Wallonia, Eva Verraes, Director of HERW!N and Helena O´Rourke-Potocki, Circular economy and Procurement officer at ICLEI, presented the main insights, activities, results and good practices of their respective organizations. 

This plenary session was closed by Anna Athanasopoulou, Head of Unit Proximity, Social Economy and Creative Industries at DG Grow (European Commission). In her speech, she highlighted three main points: the necessity of maintaining the pace of the transitions, the fact that the social economy should be at the core of the transitions and the importance of the co-creation. 

The conference also included workshops and visits to social economy enterprises and organizations both afternoons 12 and 13 and the Social Economy Village with several stands. 

After these two intense days of work and interaction at the conference with the presence of our President Juan Antonio Pedreño, our Director Sarah de Heusch, our Policy and Projects lead Paula de Diego and many of our members, Social Economy reinforces its position as a crucial ecosystem to address the challenges of the EU. The facts that the Liège Roadmap includes two of the three points of the SEE memorandum (an EU Commissioner for SE and the further implementation of the Social Economy Action Plan), points echoed by Ministers that spoke at the plenary session is excellent news for the SE ecosystem. It demonstrates the growing importance of SE in European policies. 

SEE would like to thank the Belgian government and SE ecosystem for the hard work and great result. SEE would also like to applaud the great collaboration with the Spanish government which allowed to build momentum. Dialogue, concertation and exchange are what it takes to grow and be stronger. It shows how powerful the SE ecosystem can be when it works towards common goals by federating the voices of the different SE families and networks.

SEE and its members have paved the way to such momentum for many years and is enjoying the momentum while being aware that it is also crucial to convince as many parties as possible to support SE. SEE is also keeping warry of its third advocacy line: maintaining the Social Economy Intergroup of the EU Parliament. SEE will continue the fight together with its growing membership that makes it the most representative social economy organization at European level.

Thank you all, from the grassroot organizations and enterprises to the SE intermediary bodies and friends.

Let’s continue to campaign for SE, let’s vote for SE, whatever the color!

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