The social economy is a European success story, that has consistently gained political and social visibility as a way of doing business that replies to the growing demand of citizens and consumers for a more responsible and sustainable economy, as an important pillar notably in terms of employment and social cohesion across Europe and as key actor for the achievement of the United Nation’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
Our proposal for a European Action Plan on the Social Economy
A European Action Plan for the social economy, with a proposed duration of 5 years (2021-2026), will be a key tool to systematically incorporate the social economy into the different socio-economic policies of the European Union, as well as into its actions to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.
In 2018, SEE launched a proposal of European Action Plan for the social economy aiming at:
Recognise the social economy as a transversal actor in the main socio-economic policies of the European Union
Promote the convergence and coordination of the different public authorities involved in the promotion of the social economy by defining strategic objectives and benchmarks at EU level
Foster a conducive ecosystem for the growth of the social economy in Europe, improving its contribution to key EU objectives and allowing social economy enterprises to take full advantage of the single market and of EU funds and financial instruments
In line with these three objectives, this policy proposal includes 20 policy measures and 64 actions structured in seven pillars:
Establish a common understanding of social economy enterprises and organisations in Europe.
Improve the visibility of social economy enterprises and organisations and of their values and characteristics.
Measure and further document the weight of the social economy and its effective contribution to the socio-economic development of the European Union
Provide in the framework of the European Single Market a conducive ecosystem for the growth of social economy enterprises and organisations, supporting them to access to finance and scale up, and by establishing the necessary legal framework, allowing them to fully operate trans-nationally in the Single Market.
Further integrate the social economy in EU funds and programmes, such as the ERDF, ESF Plus and the cohesion funds.
Foster the role of the social economy in the external action of the European Union.
Consolidate and strengthen a permanent and structured dialogue between EU institutions and the Social Economy.
EUROPEAN ACTION PLAN FOR THE SOCIAL ECONOMY
Why a European Action Plan for the Social Economy?
In 2016, the European Commission adopted the Start-up and Scale-up Initiative containing a section on social economy and social enterprises. On that basis, the Commission has set up and implemented (in 2017 and 2018) a series of actions for the social economy and social enterprises, structured in five pillars:
In this context, social economy representative organisations, led by Social Economy Europe; the European Parliament’s Social Economy Intergroup; the European Economic and Social Committee; and an important number of Member States are calling on the European Commission to take a step forward towards a European Action Plan for the social economy.
This Action Plan shall serve to:
Boost the visibility of social economy enterprises and organisations;
Support them to generate social and technological innovations;
Improve their access to finance and EU funding;
Remove the legal obstacles impeding their ability to grow and operate in the Single Market on an equal footing with other types of companies;
Inspire public authorities from the EU and its neighbouring countries to promote the growth of the social economy as a driver of economic and social progress for all.
Furthermore, this Action Plan should also serve to boost the uptake of new technologies in social economy enterprises and organisations. Digitalisation, blockchain, big data and artificial intelligence, among other emerging technologies, represent an enormous opportunity for the growth of social economy companies and for the creation of social economy start-ups in Europe.
Background to the European Action Plan on the Social Economy
In its Memorandum for the European Elections of 2014, SEE called on EU Institutions to define a European Action Plan for the development of social economy enterprises: SEE proposes to work together with the EU institutions in defining a European Action Plan for the development of the social economy sector, to promote social economy and social economy enterprises and to streamline EU policies to provide clarity for the social economy sector; such Action Plan will enable social economy actors to actively participate in the definition of EU policies with impact on job creation, entrepreneurship, social cohesion, territorial development, social inclusion and business development.
Since 2015, the Social Economy Intergroup and several Member States actively supported this proposal of European Action Plan for the Social Economy, in October 2016 the GECES report Social enterprises and the social economy going forward also argued for it.
In 2017, thanks to the support of 39 MEPs from different European political groups, a debate on the proposal for a European Action Plan for the Social Economy was held at the plenary of the European Parliament. Nine MEPs participated and Vera Jourova, Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality represented the European Commission. The Intergroup has also actively worked to mainstreaming social economy´s perspective into the legislative and non-legislative work of the European Parliament and reports of key importance (read more on the Social Economy Intergroup).
On 24th October 2017, the bureau of the European Parliament’s Social Economy Intergroup (SEIG) – formed by MEPs Jens Nilsson (S&D, SE), Ramón Luis Valcárcel (EPP, ES), Marie-Christine Vergiat (GUE/NGL, FR), Sven Giegold (GREENS/EFA, DE) Sofía Ribeiro (EPP, PT) and Elena Gentile (S&D, IT)- met former European Commission Vice-President for jobs, Growth, Investments and Competitiveness, Jyrki Katainen, and Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs, Skills and Labour Mobility, Mariane Thyssen. Social Economy Europe (SEE) also participated in the meeting -through its President, Juan Antonio Pedreño, and its director Víctor Meseguer as the organization in charge of the secretariat of the Social Economy Intergroup. During the meeting, Social Economy Europe was invited by Jens Nilsson MEP, Co-President of the SEIG- to produce a document on the future of the EU policies for the social economy to be delivered to Vice-President Jyrki Katainen and Commissioners Thyssen and Bieńkowska in the first months of 2018.
As a reply to this request, SEE presented in 2018 its policy paper on The Future of EU policies for the Social Economy: towards a European Action Plan that defines a series of axes and actions that may serve as a basis for elaborating a European Action Plan for the social economy. The proposals included in this document take into account the very important work that has been carried out by all EU institutions and particularly by the European Commission in recent years to support the development of the social economy. Furthermore, these proposals are the result of a consultation process in which Social Economy Europe members have actively participated.
European Parliament Social Economy Intergroup
The Social Economy Intergroup was created in 1990 and continuously active since then, the European Parliament’s Social Economy Intergroup serves to ensure a permanent dialogue between all European Institutions, Member States and the Social Economy sector, and is of vital importance to mainstream the social economy perspective into the legislative and non-legislative work of the European Parliament.
Social Economy Europe serves as the Secretariat of the Intergroup, supporting it by: drafting position papers, letters to Commissioners, amendments proposals, proposals of written and oral questions, providing strategic advice to the bureau and Intergroup members; providing updates on the latest political developments in the Social Economy ecosystem both at EU and global-level; supporting meeting and events logistics; supporting online communications of the Intergroup; and facilitating dialogue between the Intergroup and the whole Social Economy ecosystem.
From left to right: Manon Aubry (GUE/NGL), Monica Semedo (Renew), Sven Giegold (Greens/EFA), Patrizia Toia (S&D), Juan Antonio Pedreño (President SEE), Jordi Cañas (Renew)
In December 2019, the Conference of Presidents of the European Parliament approved the re-establishment of the Social Economy Intergroup thanks to the determined support of over 80 MEPs from the main political groups. You can consult the full list of intergroups as well as their members and declarations of interest here.
On 21 January 2020 the Intergroup was constituted and the co-chairs and vice-chairs were appointed (listed alphabetically):
EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT SOCIAL ECONOMY INTERGROUP
Social Economy Intergroup priorities:
In December 2014, the Conference of Presidents of the European Parliament approved the re-establishment of the Social Economy Intergroup thanks to the determined support of 80 MEPs from 6 political groups.
Bureau of the Intergroup:
Secretariat of the Intergroup:
In January 2015 the board of directors of the Social Economy Intergroup was created, composed of 5 co-presidents:
• Jens Nilsson (S&D, Sweden)
• Ramón Luis Valcárcel (EPP, Spain)
• Beatriz Becerra (ALDE, Spain)
• Sven Giegold (Greens/EFA, Germany)
• Marie-Christine Vergiat (GUE/NGL, France)
And two vice-presidents :
• Sofia Ribeiro (EPP, Portugal)
• Elena Gentile (S&D, Italy)
Jens Nilsson ensured the coordination and management of the Intergroup until his sad passing in 2018. We wish to pay tribute to our colleague Jens Nilsson (1948-2018). Although he is not with us anymore, his vision of a fair and inclusive Europe will last. With Jens in our minds, we will keep working for the growth of the Social Economy as a key driver of economic and social progress in Europe.
In 2018, Marie-Christine Vergiat took over as a coordinator, Elena Gentile replaced him as S&D co-president, and Georgi Prinski became as a new vice-president. Likewise, Social Economy Europe, as the EU-level representative organization of the social economy, was entrusted with the Intergroup´s technical secretariat.
A solid track-record:
During the 2014-2019 mandate the Intergrouip organized 15 public hearings, attended by more than 1,400 people in total, on relevant issues and policies for the social economy.
The intergroup also held 6 high level meetings with key EU leaders like Vicepresident Jyrki Katanient and Commissioners Thyssen and Bienkowska; the Minister for Labour and Social Economy of Luxembourg, Nicolas Schmit, and with the special advisor of the European Commission for European Pillar of Social Rights, Allan Larsson.
In addition, the Intergroup strongly supported the adoption of the Council Conclusions on Social Economy, the actions of the European Commission for these enterprises and organisations, as well as the agenda of various governments and presidencies of the Council of the European Union to promote the Social Economy in Europe.
What are the European Parliament’s Intergroups?
Intergroups can be formed by Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) from any political group and any committee, with the aim of holding informal exchanges of views on particular subjects and promoting contact between MEPs and civil society. Intergroups are not Parliament bodies and therefore may not express Parliament's opinion. There are currently 27 Intergroups, amongst which the Social Economy Intergroup. Please find further information here.
INSTITUTIONS WE WORK WITH
The European Commission has been working on promoting social economy actors since 1989, when its communication “Business in the Social Economy sector: Europe’s frontier-free market”, was launched.
Currently, the Commission continues to work on boosting social economy enterprises and organisations all over our European Union, a work that is led by the Commission’s Directorate General (DG) for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs and DG Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion.
In December 2019, Commission President Ursula von der Leyen requested, in her mission letter to Commissioner Nicolas Schmit, the development of a European Action Plan for the Social Economy, that will be presented in 2021.
There are two Commission’s units leading the work on social economy: the Social Economy unit in DG Grow, whose head is Ulla Engelmann, and the unit on Job Creation, whose head is Ann Branch. These two units chair and convene the meetings of the European Commission Expert Group on Social Economy and social enterprises and the meetings of the European Commission Internal Taskforce on Social Economy, formed by units from over 20 Directorates General, that aim to ensure that the ambition to boost the social economy across the EU and beyond is transversal: a project of the whole European Commission
European Commission Expert Group on Social Economy and Social Enterprises (GECES)
The Expert group on social entrepreneurship (Groupe d'experts de la Commission sur l'entrepreneuriat social – GECES) was set up in 2011 for a 6 year period, in line with the European Commission’s communication on the Social Business Initiative: Creating a favourable climate for social enterprises, key stakeholders in the social economy and innovation. GECES was consulted by the Commission on the development, set up and implementation of all the actions mentioned in the SBI and the further development of social entrepreneurship and social economy.
In 2018, the Commission renewed the expert group and changed its name to Expert group on social economy and social enterprises.
Social Economy Europe is a full member of the European Commission Expert Group on Social Economy and social enterprises, alongside with eight of its members. These are the individuals representing SEE and several of its members at GECES:
● Víctor Meseguer, representing Social Economy Europe
● Pedro Bleck Da Silva, representing AIM
● Filipa Farelo, representing CASES and the Portuguese State
● Diana Dovgan, representing CECOP
● Sébastien Pereau, representing ConcertES
● María Orejas, representing the European Foundation Centre
● Patrizia Bussi, representing ENSIE
● Włodzimierz Grudziński, representing FEBEA
● Ana Umbelino, representing REVES
The Expert group on social economy and social enterprises has two working groups:
● Working Group on the role of clusters and similar forms of business cooperation in fostering the development of social economy
● Working group “Social Investments and Skills”
A bit of history:
At European level, in 1989 the European Commission published a Communication entitled “Businesses in the Social Economy sector: Europe’s frontier-free market”. In that same year the Commission sponsored the 1st European Social Economy Conference (Paris) and created a Social Economy Unit within DG XXIII Enterprise Policy, Distributive Trades, Tourism and the Social Economy. In 1990, 1992, 1993 and 1995 the Commission promoted European Social Economy Conferences in Rome, Lisbon, Brussels and Seville.
The Commission aims for a level playing field in which social economy enterprises can compete effectively and fairly, without regulatory discrimination and taking into account their particular needs. To promote a highly competitive social market economy, the Commission has addressed the issue in the following initiatives: .
● Social Business Initiative (COM(2011) 682 final)
● Social innovation policy making
● Single market act 1 and 2
● Small business act
● The flagship initiative, the Innovation Union
● The Communication, 'business in the social economy sector: Europe’s frontier-free market' (1989).
Currently, the Commission has a diversity of programmes aiming at supporting social economy enterprises and organisations across Europe, such as the European Social Economy Regions.
Find out more about the Commission’s actions for the social economy here.
Council of the European Union
In December 2015 the Council of the European Union (Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council configuration- EPSCO), adopted historic Council Conclusions on The promotion of the social economy as a key driver of economic and social development in Europe. These Conclusions, unanimously adopted by 28 Member States, were promoted by Luxembourg’s Presidency of the Council and by the former Luxembourgish Minisiter for Labour and Social Economy, Nicolas Schmit, who is currently EU Commissioner for Employment and Social Rights. For the first time in the EU’s history the EU 28 agreed on a generic definition of social economy enterprises as “a universe of organizations based on the primacy of people over capital that include organisational forms such as cooperatives, mutual, foundations and associations as well as newer forms of social enterprises5 and may be regarded as vehicles for social and economic cohesion across Europe”. Furthermore, a roadmap for the social economy was included in the text with concrete commitments and recommendations to Members States, the European Commission and social economy enterprises.
Since 2015, the social economy has been mainstreamed in several Council decisions and resolutions, such as:
● Council decisions on guidelines for the employment policies of the Member States
● Council Conclusions on Inclusive labour markets: Improving the employment of people in a vulnerable position in the labour market, adopted in December 2019
● Or the Council Conclusions on The Economy of Wellbeing, adopted in October 2019 under Finland’s Presidency of the Council of the EU.
Monitoring Committee of Luxembourg Declaration
Inspired by Luxembourg declaration - A roadmap towards a more comprehensive ecosystem for social economy enterprises, adopted in 2015 by six Member States -France, Italy, Luxembourg, Slovak Republic, Slovenia and Spain- the Monitoring Committee (also known as High-level group of Member States on Social Economy) was created in 2016 aiming at giving continuity and following up the agreements and progresses reached within the framework of the Luxembourg Declaration.
The monitoring committee seeks, among other functions, to set up action plans, establish priorities, rule the adhesion of new Member States and seek a multiplier effect for the employment creation and social innovation that social economy has been fostering in Europe and beyond.
The functions of the Presidency and the Secretary are borne by a Member State for a period of one year, rotating among the signatory Member States of the Luxembourg Declaration. Along these lines, Spain assumed the Presidency in 2017, followed by Slovenia (2018), France (2019) and Spain (2020).
European Economic and Social Committee
The EESC has, within its structure, two bodies specifically dedicated to the social economy:
● The Social Economy Category: composed of members drawn from the Various Interests' Group and from the Employers' Group, representing cooperatives, mutual, associations, foundations and social NGOs. Currently, its spokespersons are Alain Coheur, Vice-President of SEE and Krzysztof Balon, Secretary of the Programming Committee of Social Organisations of Poland.
● The Temporary Study Group on Social Economy Enterprises : set up in 2015 to monitor political developments and identify measures still to be taken to create a better ecosystem for social economy enterprises. One of its objectives is also to disseminate best practices in order to raise the profile of this economic model. In its numerous positions on the topic, the EESC has consistently called for an Action Plan for the Social Economy, with initiatives aiming at ensuring the development and recognition of the sector.
The European Economic and Social Committee has not cease in its efforts to foster an ambitious European policy promoting the Social Economy.
Since 2016, the EESC organises every year the European Day of Social Economy enterprises, whose next edition is scheduled for November 2019. In addition, the EESC has approved a large number of opinions on topics of great relevance for the social economy and studies on "Recent evolutions of the Social Economy in the European Union" (2017) and "Best practices in public policies regarding the European Social Economy post the economic crisis ".
Social Economy Europe is member of the EESC’s Liaison Group, that was set up in 2004 to provide a framework for political dialogue and cooperation between the EESC and the European organisations and networks the Group liaises with, as well as other EU institutions, on cross-cutting issues of common interest.The Group provides a unique bridge between civil society organisations and the European institutions, enabling civil dialogue and promoting participatory democracy. It is a channel through which civil society can discuss and influence the EU agenda and decision-making processes (as envisaged under Article 11 TEU).
Committee of the Regions
The European Committee of the Regions (CoR) has 329 members representing local and regional authorities from all 27 EU Member States. They gather in plenary in Brussels 5 to 6 times a year to discuss political priorities and adopt opinions on EU legislation.
The CoR has consistently been supportive of Social Economy as a driver of territorial cohesion and sustainable local development. In its plenary session of 3 and 4 December 2015 the Committee of the Regions adopted its opinion “The role of the social economy in restoring economic growth and combating unemployment” (rapporteur: Luis Gomes, PT, EPP).
In cooperation with our member REVES (European Network of Cities and Regions for the Social Economy), SEE is member of the jury of the European Entrepreneurial Region (EER) is a project that identifies and rewards EU regions which show an outstanding and innovative entrepreneurial policy strategy, irrespective of their size, wealth and competences. The regions with the most credible, forward-thinking and promising vision plan are granted the label "European Entrepreneurial Region" (EER) for a specific year. SEE participates in the jury alongside with other Institutions and business organisations as SME United, Eurochambres and EURADA.
UN Taskforce on Social and Solidarity Economy
Social Economy Europe is an observer of the UN Inter-Agency Task Force on Social and Solidarity Economy (UNTFSSE), that was established to raise the visibility of the SSE in international knowledge and policy circles.
The UNTFSSE brings together UN agencies and other inter-governmental organizations, as well as umbrella associations of SSE networks as members and observers. Task Force activities include organizing events at UN and other international conferences, dialoguing with policy makers, preparing and disseminating publications through the newly created Knowledge Hub, and engaging in collaborative projects involving the UNTFSSE members and observers. The most recent achievement was the launch of the Knowledge Hub, a platform that gathers research on the potential of the SSE for the realization of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) put forward by the 2030 Agenda.
Beyond the European Union, SEE also cooperates with the Union for the Mediterranean and the OSCE to promote the social economy in other regions of the world.
Working Group on Social Economy and Disability
SEE’s Working Group on Social Economy and Disability was an initiative of SEE member the European Foundation Centre with the purpose of raising the visibility of the role and potential of Social Economy enterprises and organisations to generate quality employment for people with disabilities and to promote their social and labour integration. The Working Group members are: CECOP, ENSIE, ConcertES, CASES (represented by Confecoop), and Arfie.
Activities of Social Economy Europe’s Working Group:
● Mainstreams disability into SEE activities
● Sharing information and updates on policy/regulatory developments – examples of dossiers of interest for the WG members include
● Sharing examples of best practice on different fronts
● Organisinge joint meeting of the Social Economy and Disability Intergroups of the European Parliament
BSI – Buying for Social Impact 2018
The project in a nutshell
Buying for Social Impact (BSI) is a project commissioned by the Executive Agency for Small
and Medium-sized Enterprises (EASME) and the European Commission Directorate-General for
Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs (DG GROW) to promote the use of social
considerations in public procurement procedures. The project has two main objectives:
● To encourage contracting authorities to use public procurement to pursue social goals;
● To Increase the capacity of social economy enterprises to take part in public procurement
procedures and to access new markets.
The project covers 15 Member States: Croatia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany,
Greece, Hungary, Italy, Ireland, Latvia, the Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Sweden.
What we do
We inform authorities and suppliers in these countries about social considerations in purchasing
procedures by raising awareness, and by providing training to contracting authorities and suppliers
to the public sector. The work of BSI is divided into two strands:
● Knowledge development through desk research on: how the new public procurement directive has been transposed at national level, identification of good practices showcasing
how the social aspects of the directive can be implemented in practice, and a mapping of
the capacity of social economy enterprises in accessing markets.
● Knowledge sharing and exchange through the organisation of awareness raising and training
events in the 15 EU countries.
Who we are
The BSI Team consists of a network of National Public Procurement and Social Economy experts in the
above mentioned EU countries. The Team of National Experts is coordinated by a Consortium led by
the European Association for Information on Local Development (AEIDL) bringing together European
organisations active in the promotion of local development and social economy enterprises: the
European Network of Cities and Regions for the Social Economy (REVES), DIESIS COOP, Social Economy
Europe (SEE) and the European Network of Social Integration Enterprises (ENSIE).
● A Report with 22 examples of good practices in the area of socially responsible public procurement, from 12 EU Member States, and covering a large variety of approaches (i.e. not only public procurement procedures, but also policy initiatives and support structures);
● A Brochure offering an overview of what the BSI project was about, as well as outlining key findings and recommendations.
● A database of the transposition of the Public Procurement Directive 2014/24/EU and mapping of Social Economy ecosystems.
● A Brochure offering an overview of what the BSI project was about, as well as outlining key findings and recommendations.
● A database of the transposition of the Public Procurement Directive 2014/24/EU and mapping of Social Economy ecosystems.