The external dimension of social economy (own-initiative opinion)

EESC opinion: The external dimension of social economy (own-initiative opinion)

Composition of the Study Group

Administrator in charge: Gunilla Fèvre-Burdy | Assistant in charge: Carlotta I. Iapichino

Key points:

The social economy is a key player and helps to achieve the objectives of all European policies with an external dimension: external and security policy, trade policy, neighbourhood policy, climate change policy, development cooperation and sustainable development policy. However, the lack of an appropriate regulatory environment, at both European and national level, prevents this sector from developing its full potential and maximising its impact.

The EESC welcomes the fact that in the Post-2015 Agenda the Council underlines the importance of "the social economy to job creation and sustainable development", which opens up new opportunities for boosting the external dimension of the social economy (point 43 of the Post-2015 Agenda), but regrets that the Commission has not included the social economy in its proposal for a new European Consensus on Development.

The Commission has recognised the important role that social economy enterprises (SEEs) can play in the development of the circular economy, to which they can make an essential contribution. SEEs make a significant contribution to sustainable economic growth, thus reducing their negative environmental impacts. The EESC therefore finds it regrettable that, despite their undeniable role in meeting the Sustainable Development Goals and their socio-economic importance, SEEs are not systematically considered to be an actor as such in EU programmes designed to boost the international dimension and external promotion of business, and development cooperation programmes. Furthermore, the European External Investment Plan and the European Fund for Sustainable Development do not provide for any line of financing specifically for SEEs.

The EESC endorses the recommendation of the Expert Group on Social Entrepreneurship (GECES) that the role of SEEs in EU external policy be strengthened. In this connection, the Commission and the European External Action Service must coordinate their policies and initiatives with a view to:

  • allocating direct and indirect funding to SEEs in third countries, together with participating governments and organisations supporting the social economy;
  • establishing specific cooperation initiatives with other global partners and innovation and investment funds in order to enhance the impact of the respective programmes.

The Commission and the social economy should facilitate the involvement of the G20 and the G7 in promoting specific policies to support the social economy (as discussed in the G20 Inclusive Business Framework), to better reflect the differences in the set of values, principles and raison d’être between these organisations (GECES Recommendation 12).

The role of the social economy in international forums (UNTFSSE, ILGSSE, G20, G7, ILO, etc.) and cooperation with international financial organisations should be promoted via economic diplomacy.

The Commission should specifically include the social economy sector as an EU business stakeholder in initiatives for access to third markets, in all development cooperation programmes and in the implementation of the Post-2015 Agenda, establishing specific indicators and objectives for cooperatives and other similar social economy enterprises.

The Commission and the Member States must promote the participation, consultation and coordination of their external entrepreneurial and development cooperation activities with the bodies representing the social economy at European and national level, as well as with those of partner countries, and with international social economy organisations with a North-South and South-South dimension. The EESC reiterates its call for the creation of a European Sustainable Development Civil Society Forum to promote and monitor the implementation of the 2030 Agenda, with the key players being the Council, Commission, Parliament, the representative bodies of the European social economy and the rest of civil society.