“The social economy, the future of Europe”

As part of the French Presidency of the Council of the European Union, an informal conference of European Ministers responsible for the social economy in Paris was organized on 17 February.

The challenge is to mobilize the actors of the European social economy in the implementation of the European Action Plan for the Social Economy, published on 9 December 2021 by the European Commission. ” The priority will also be to wait for the French Presidency of the EU to push this plan forward to the first half of 2022 and put the SSE back on the European agenda. That was the wish of Hugues Sibille, President of the think tank “Le Labo de l’ESS”.

The conference brings together the EU Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion, Nicolas Schmit and Mrs Olivia Grégoire, State Secretary for Social Affairs, Solidarity and Responsible Economy, who is discussing this first action plan with social entrepreneurs. Secondly, the Ministers concerned in the various Member States will meet in Paris to discuss best practices and concrete solutions to promote and develop the social economy in the internal market.

The social and solidarity-based economy of France

In France, the “social and solidarity-based economy” (ESS) is structured – and thus defined – by the Hamon Act of 31. July 2014, which includes commercial activities in addition to the traditional protagonists such as mutual societies, cooperatives, associations and foundations. Provided that they meet the following conditions: their internal function and activities are based on the principle of solidarity and social benefit, they adopt democratic and participatory management methods. They strictly monitor the use of the profits they earn: individual profits are prohibited and the results are reinvested. These units are always private, which does not prevent them from benefiting from public funding.

SSE actors, as defined in French law, thus act in favor of people in vulnerable situations, especially with regard to health. They mobilize in favor of equality, inclusion, citizenship education, social ties and territorial cohesion. They contribute to sustainable development, energy transition or international solidarity.

The social economy of Europe

The European institutions have not decided on a definition of “social economy” – as designated by the European Economic and Social Committee – due to the differences between approaches in the various Member States. However, the Charter of Principles for the Social Economy of the Social Economy Europe outlines the characteristics of companies that are centered on serving the public interest while being independent of the public authorities, with objectives of solidarity and sustainable development, which have absolutely precedence over capital, and finally most often over autonomous and democratic leadership.

The European Commission has proven to be a pioneer in this field through a number of initiatives – starting with the creation of a “social economy” unit within it in 1989. The European Action Plan for the Social Economy is the culmination of a patient process that aims to increase the visibility of the social economy and facilitate its financing by converging the policies of the various Member States.

European Commission action plan

Based on the social enterprise initiative launched by the Commission in 2011, the action plan is the result of extensive consultations with citizens and stakeholders. Its aim: to promote the growth of the European social economy. Its proposal: create a favorable legal framework, facilitate access to finance, promote the social economy.

examples? – A Recommendation of the 2023 European Council to help Member States take social enterprises into account in their regulatory and fiscal frameworks; a single portal that gathers all information about public support; dedicated financial products; a “Youth Entrepreneurship Policy Academy” for young entrepreneurs; a European Center of Excellence for Social Innovation, Facilitation of Partnerships and Transnational Exchanges, a “Buy Local” initiative, etc.

At the same time as finalizing its action plan, the Commission is launching a “transition path” to facilitate the ecological and digital transformation of the social economy in dialogue with public authorities and stakeholders. To this end, a survey is open to citizens until February 28, 2022.

SSE is all for the benefit of public finances

In a report funded by the European Commission, the OECD finds that social enterprises play a major role in reducing public spending and increasing tax revenues. In some areas, they are more effective than public and private organizations thanks to their knowledge of the field and their local roots. ” Social enterprise is not a panacea for current social and economic challenges. However, it greatly contributes to meeting them. Hence the benefits of a proactive policy in favor of an ecosystem that benefits it, all the more so in the light of the tension that its dual economic and social injunctions evoke.

  1. Recent developments in the social economy of the European Union, study conducted by the European Economic and Social Committee, 2017.
  2. Joint Declaration of the European Social Economy Organizations, CEP-CMAF, 2002 (Conference of Cooperatives, Mutual Societies, Associations and Foundations).
  3. The initiative for social entrepreneurship
  4. Synthesis on social entrepreneurship, entrepreneurship in Europe, 2013.
  5. Synthesis on social entrepreneurship, entrepreneurship in Europe, 2013.

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