Co-ops are key to a more social Europe, says CECOP-CICOPA Europe

A discussion of the European Pillar of Social Rights called for more supportive regulation for the co-op movement

A conference on social economy and social entrepreneurship has looked at the future implications of the digital revolution and inclusive growth.

The event was centred around the European Pillar of Social Rights, which was jointly signed by the European Parliament, Council and Commission on 17 November 2017. The pillar commits EU states to 20 principles and rights, including equal access to the labour market; the right to health care; a better work-life balance; and gender equality for pay.

Patrick Develtere, principal adviser on European social policy at the European Political Strategy Centre of the European Commission, who moderated the morning session, said the EU wanted to “stand up for the rights of its citizens in a fast-changing world”.

Keynote speaker Giuseppe Guerini, president of the European confederation of industrial and service co-operatives (CECOP-CICOPA Europe), said the social economy – and in particular worker and social co-operatives – played an important role in building a more social Europe.

He said the pillar was “a good start” for a “more social Europe”, something CECOP had been campaigning for.

“This initiative has been important to raise awareness among the member states on the need of a more social Europe, to demonstrate that business activities, investments and the social dimension can be combined to create growth and development,” he said.

He said it was important to recognise the “active contribution” of co-ops to the sustainability of the local economies, and called on governments to support this.

“This ability must be supported with regulatory policies,” he said. “An example concerns the public procurements: from this point of view the 2014 Procurement and Concession Directive is a clear positive example, thanks to the provision of social clauses and reserved contracts for enterprises involved in work integration of disadvantaged people.”

He added: “Another very useful public policy passes through the taxation lever, with facilitation and simplification mechanisms. This does not just mean reducing taxes; and nor is it a question of losing revenue from the state taxes, because what seems lost on the one hand can be greatly increased by savings and efficiency, such as reducing poverty.

“For example, if I give up a share of taxes owed by the company on the work done by a disadvantaged worker, but I save money that I would have to spend on subsidies and assistance for these people, we can have an obvious benefit.

“What is needed is to learn how to measure it. In Italy, for example, we are using an evaluation method that measures these relationships with a scientific analysis validated by a university.”

Participants at the two-day forum examined ways the social economy could become sustainable and discussed the favourable conditions for a strong social economy in the EU. 

Held in Sofia, Bulgaria, the high-level meeting was organised in the framework of the Bulgarian presidency of the EU.

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