The EU’s regions and cities are looking forward to the Social Economy Action Plan, which the European Commission is expected to publish before the end of the year. The opinion adopted by the European Committee of the Regions (CoR) on Thursday underlines that it is essential to harness the full potential of social economy enterprises and organisations to ensure economic recovery, to promote collective entrepreneurship and to create high-quality jobs after the COVID-19 crisis.
Diverse forms of social economy enterprises and organisations currently employ 13.6 million workers, which corresponds to around 6.3% of the EU workforce. Rapporteur Mikel Irujo (ES/EA), Minister for Economic and Business Development of the Navarre Regional Government, highlighted that that these businesses have local roots and shared values, such as the primacy of individuals and the social purpose over capital, democratic governance and the reinvestment of most of the profits in a sustainable way.
“EU action to promote the development of the social economy is particularly relevant due to the economic and social crisis caused by COVID‑19. Social economy enterprises and organisations are businesses that never relocate, as they are created in the local area and owned by people based there, and are strongly committed to the economic and social development of the place where they operate. It is important that regions include the social economy in their smart specialisation strategies as a key lever for economic and social development”, Mr Irujo said when presenting the opinion.
However, the CoR opinion points out a need to support, finance and strengthen social economy networks at European level. Social economy enterprises and organisations often face difficulties in accessing finance and operating transnationally in the Single Market, partly due to poor visibility and understanding of their business models and lack of common legal frameworks covering different forms of social economy.
Regions and cities are calling on the Commission to promote education and training for entrepreneurship throughh different forms of social economy at all educational levels, and to support the training and life-long learning access of social economy workers through the Pact for Skills. The opinion also suggests to strengthen cooperation with the industrial ecosystem of the social economy and to build alliances with other business actors, public authorities, vocational training centres, professional schools, universities and research centres..
The CoR would also like to see more ambitious initiatives to support the role of local and regional authorities in promoting the social economy. The Commission should boost the visibility of the social economy with a broad communication campaign, which could include publishing a guide to public social economy policies, selecting a European Capital of Social Economy and creating a single online platform which links all European studies and reports on the social economy and the opportunities offered by the EU in this field.
Finally, the Social Economy Action Plan should have a timescale of at least five years for its implementation with appropriate mechanisms for monitoring and supporting social economy policies. The opinion also calls for cross-sectoral social dialogue with social economy employer