“The social economy, the future of Europe”

Within the framework of the French presidency of the Council of the European Union, an informal conference of European ministers responsible for the social economy was organized in Paris on 17 February.

The challenge is to mobilize the actors of the European social economy in the implementation of the European Action Plan for the Social Economy, published on December 9, 2021 by the European Commission. ” The priority will also be to wait for the French presidency of the EU to promote this Plan in the first half of 2022 and put the SSE back on the European agenda. This was the wish of Hugues Sibille, president of the think tank “Le Labo de l’ESS”.

The conference brings together the European Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Integration, Nicolas Schmit and Olivia Grégoire, Secretary of State for Social, Solidarity and Responsible Economy, who talks with social entrepreneurs about this first action plan. Second, the concerned ministers from the various Member States meet in Paris to discuss best practices and concrete solutions to promote and develop the social economy within the internal market.

The social and solidarity economy in France

In France, the “social and solidarity economy” (ESS) is structured, and therefore defined, by the Hamon Law of July 31, 2014, which covers commercial activities, beyond the traditional protagonists such as mutual societies, cooperatives, associations and foundations. As long as they meet the following conditions: their internal operations and activities are based on a principle of solidarity and social utility, they adopt democratic and participatory management methods. They strictly supervise the use of the profits they make: individual profit is prohibited and the results are reinvested. These entities are always private, which does not prevent them from benefiting from public funding.

SSE actors, as defined by French law, thus act in favor of people in situations of vulnerability, particularly in terms of health. They mobilize in favor of equality, inclusion, citizen education, social bonds and territorial cohesion. They contribute to sustainable development, the energy transition or international solidarity.

The social economy in Europe

The European institutions have not ruled on a definition of “social economy” – thus designated by the European Economic and Social Committee – due to the disparity of approaches within the different Member States. The Charter of Principles of the Social Economy of the Social Economy Europe association, however, outlines the characteristics of companies focused on serving the general interest, being independent from public authorities, with objectives of solidarity and sustainable development that absolutely prevail over capital. , and finally, more frequently, on autonomous and democratic management.

The European Commission has shown itself to be a pioneer on the issue, through a series of measures, beginning with the creation of a “social economy” unit within it in 1989. The European Action Plan for the Social Economy is the culmination of a patient process aimed at giving greater visibility to the social economy and facilitating its financing through the convergence of the policies of the different Member States.

The European Commission Action Plan

Building on the Social Business Initiative launched by the Commission in 2011, the action plan is the result of extensive consultation with citizens and stakeholders. Its objective: to promote the growth of the European social economy. Their proposals: create a favorable legal framework, facilitate access to financing, promote the social economy.

Examples? – A 2023 European Council recommendation to help Member States take into account social enterprises in their regulatory and tax framework; a single portal that brings together all the information on public aid; dedicated financial products; a “Youth Entrepreneurship Policy Academy” for young entrepreneurs; a European skills center for social innovation, facilitating transnational partnerships and exchanges, a “Buy Local” initiative, etc.

At the same time as finalizing its action plan, the Commission is launching a “transition path” aimed at facilitating the green and digital transition of the social economy, in dialogue with public authorities and stakeholders. For this, an investigation is opened to the public until February 28, 2022.

The SSE is all benefit for public finances

In a report financed by the European Commission, the OECD finds that social enterprises play an important role in reducing public spending and increasing tax revenue. In some areas, they are more effective than public and private organizations thanks to their knowledge of the field and their local roots. ” Social enterprise is not a panacea for today’s social and economic challenges. However, it goes a long way toward meeting them. Hence the merits of a proactive policy in favor of an ecosystem that is beneficial to it, even more so in the face of the tension caused by its double economic and social mandate.

  1. Recent developments in the social economy in the European Union, study by the European Economic and Social Committee, 2017.
  2. Joint final declaration of the European organizations of the social economy, CEP-CMAF, 2002 (Conference of Cooperatives, Mutuals, Associations and Foundations).
  3. The initiative for social entrepreneurship
  4. Synthesis on social entrepreneurship, entrepreneurial activity in Europe, 2013.
  5. Synthesis on social entrepreneurship, entrepreneurial activity in Europe, 2013.

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