As the European Union celebrates 60 years since the Treaty of Rome, co-operatives in industry and services call for for a new Europe that cares for the real economy, sustainable development and social justice.
Over the years, co-operatives have demonstrated their ability to weather successive crises and to protect jobs, while at the same time being one of the few forms of companies which can still offer investment opportunities and growth for young people.
“Co-operatives are the most appropriate way of organising economic activities and jobs that can redistribute wealth while producing it; in other words, they are enterprises that limit the growth of inequalities and promote social cohesion,” says Giuseppe Guerini, president of CECOP, the European confederation of industrial and service co-operatives, which represents 50,000 enterprises in Europe.
An increasingly competitive and globalised market makes the life of all businesses which rely on the real economy – and have a high labour content – difficult.
The challenges faced by the European economy are made even more complex by the prevailing political and cultural context – in which the economy and politics are increasingly conditioned by the depersonalised financial culture.
Work and the production of goods are “subordinate” to the frantic search for income and profits, while the economic capital of the business, rather than being a factor of production, has become “liquid”, exchanged in a continuous flow that needs to generate money, even when it does not create goods.
“Co-operatives represent a safeguard for the principle of economic democracy: they are platforms for the real economy,” says Mr Guerini. “They could be considered as a form of protection which makes it possible to save the market economy from the financial intoxication that is generating a series of crises, in particular in the services, production and craft work sectors.
“It is important to underline that without co-operatives, the goals of the EU 2020 program for more sustainable, smart and inclusive growth will remain largely incomplete.”
Labour and the re-industrialisation of the productive economy
CECOP wishes to focus great attention on the issue of labour and, regarding production, to think of a re-industrialisation of the productive economy – one that is based on the ability to aggregate co-operative enterprises in a social economy design that ties the producers of values, services and goods to a development model, and helps them to build alliances. A model where the real economy becomes a common good alternative to the financialisation which is plundering territories and local economies.
“It certainly may seem unrealistic and utopian to imagine that worker co-operatives could, by themselves, re-industrialise Europe and combat unemployment, but it is essential that someone ‘dreams of a Europe’ that once again cares for the real economy, sustainable development and social justice,” adds Mr Guerini.
“We are convinced that if you can dream of something, doing it together is the way to achieve it. This is why I think that co-operatives will lead us to the real economy.
“There is a need for an ecological and social business plan that recreates the conditions to give a future to work, repositioning it at the core of economic development policies. Placing co-operatives firmly on the European agenda is part of this design that we in CECOP want to help build.”
You can read the full interview with Giuseppe Guerini here.
- This article was originally published on www.cecop.coop.