MEPs approve report on EU action plan for the social economy

Cooperatives Europe welcomed the report but said it needed stronger measures on democratic governance and capacity building

On 6 July the European Parliament approved a report featuring suggestions and recommendations for a more ambitious implementation of the EU Action Plan for the Social Economy.

The report was prepared by rapporteur MEP Jordi Cañas MEP (Renew, ES), who sits as vice chair of the parliament’s Social Economy Intergroup (SEIG), working with the Employment and Social Affairs Committee. It passed with 493 votes in favour, 75 against and 69 abstentions.

It will help provide feedback on the proposed action plan to the European Commission, with recommendations including the need for a common EU-level definition of the social economy – which has 2.8 million social economy actors across the EU, employing 13.6 million people.

Other suggestions include deploying financial tools to respond to the specific needs of social economy enterprises and organisations; raising awareness of the social economy as an employer and entrepreneurial model; and helping social economy actors innovate to improve the development, delivery and accessibility of services.

Mr Cañas said: “With this report, the European Parliament has shown its resolve to elevate the social economy and its key principles – social inclusion, solidarity, and justice – to the place it deserves in the EU policy debate. More importantly, it has put on the table some proposals to pave the way and accompany the powerful transformation and consolidation the social economy is undergoing. The social economy has a strong ally in the European Parliament.”

Katrin Langensiepen MEP (Greens/EFA, DE), SEIG vice chair and shadow rapporteur, added: “With this report the European Parliament clearly stresses the importance of social economy in the green transition and future of work. We particularly welcome the gender mainstreaming and the demand to facilitate funding for women.

“Nevertheless, we Greens would have preferred a more ambitious paper including the establishment of a label and a common definition for social economy enterprises to increase their visibility. We hope that this will come in the next steps.”

Juan Antonio Pedreño, president of Social Economy Europe, said: “This report points in a positive direction and has gathered a wide support from 493 MEPs, who would like to see an ambitious implementation of the Social Economy Action Plan. The role of the European Parliament and its Social Economy Intergroup is more relevant than ever to support the commission, member states and social economy stakeholders in further boosting the social economy across Europe, scaling up from 6.3% of all EU jobs today to 10% by 2030.”

The Social Economy Action Plan was launched by the European Commission in December 2021 to boost the social economy sector, which includes co-operatives.

Cooperatives Europe said the report offers “an opportunity to push the Commission to go further in its commitments”.

And it welcomed a number of measures in the report which promote the co-operative model and its principles of democracy and members’ participation. The report recognises the need for enhanced partnerships and cooperation between social economy entities and mainstream businesses, and the prerequisite for education, training, upskilling and reskilling schemes to make social economy organisations (SEOs) more competitive.

But the apex said the report lacked more ‘disruptive’ or ambitious measures, and criticised the omission of democratic governance as an essential criterion of the social economy, especially regarding socially responsible procurement.

And it said there should be more attention paid to “capacity-building support measures for SEOs” in their start-up phase “to ensure that young co-operatives or other SEOs get access to funding and training programmes early on in their development phase”.

In a statement on its website, it added: “Cooperatives Europe hopes this report will nourish the Commission’s work for the action plan implementation. We stand ready to work on this matter hand in hand with the Commission to offer our member co-operatives and social economy as a whole the best chances to develop and thrive in the EU”.