Co-ops respond to European consultation on developing the social economy

Sector bodies made a number of requests, including full recognition of their business model in all EU member states

In August the European Commission launched a public consultation to gather feedback for an upcoming Council Recommendation to help member states better adapt their policies and laws to the needs of the social economy.

In its response to the consultation, Cooperatives Europe highlighted the need for a full recognition of co-operatives in all member states, calling for the ICA’s co-operative values and principles to be recognised as common features of the co-operative business model across the EU. Furthermore, argued the apex, co-operatives’ specificities must be recognised in the EU competition and taxation framework. 

“Their specific operating principles, management logic and other restrictions lead to different treatments across member states, which is not always fully understood in EU taxation or state-aid policies,” it said. “In that regard, the Commission’s guidelines for interpretations of cooperatives’ place in EU competition laws would be very welcome.”

Cooperatives Europe also called on EU member states to provide better access to finance and education on co-operative entrepreneurship.

“Given the benefits they bring to their community (decent employment, social cohesion, democracy), we believe all member states should include cooperatives entrepreneurship in business education as part of their national curricula for schools and tertiary education, with the help of the Commission’s coordination and stakeholders’ involvement,” it said.

Cecop, the European confederation of workers’ co-ops, social co-ops and social and participative enterprises, shared some of Cooperatives UK’s concerns, particularly around ensuring recognition of the co-op model across all policy, and the need for legislation to facilitate the creation and functioning of worker and social co-operatives. In addition, Cecop wants a legal framework for worker buyouts, and support for platform co-operatives – through the removal of legal barriers, a level playing field, and the implementation of the platform work directive.

Furthermore, Cecop called for legislation to support worker and social co-ops including by making fiscal rules (incl. VAT and tax exemptions on retained benefits) favourable to their development.

Another issue raised by co-ops is the need for public private partnerships that include co-ops. The European Research Institute on Cooperative and Social Enterprises (Euricse),argued for a shared administration approach, using mechanisms of co-programming and co-design instead of tender-based procurement. “This mechanism is not based on the criterion of maximum savings for the public administration but relies on a collaborative effort to achieve maximum satisfaction in terms of results obtained,” said Euricse.

This issue was also mentioned by REScoop Wallonia, an apex for renewable energy co-ops in the Walloon region of Belgium, who is also a member of, the European federation of citizen energy co-operatives. REScoop Wallonia’s feedback said: “In the context of public procurement, when there is a public aid mechanism, the price criterion must at least be weighted at least 70% of the total.” ResCoop Wallonia wants this cut to 50% for social economy actors in order to “devote other criteria to aspects related to the impact, the degree of citizen participation”.

The consultation ran from 18 August to 30 September, enabling a range of social economy actors to take part. Among these were Cooperatives Europe, Social Economy Europe, Cecop, the Spanish Confederation of social economy enterprises (Cepes), the Italian Cooperative Alliance, Confcooperative (Italy), Euricse, ResCoop, the Confederation of Basque Social Economy Businesses (Konfekoop), la Confederation on Cooperatives of Basque Country, the Spanish confederation of worker co-ops (Coceta), Mondragon Corporation, and ESS France.

All submissions are available here

This story has been amended. An earlier version attributed REScoop Wallonia’s feedback to REScoop EU.