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Social economy a top theme for ESF 2014-2020 3 November 2014

Posted by cooperatoby in Social enterprise.
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The social economy seems assured of integrated support in the ESF over the coming six years. At least 12 EU Member States seem likely to take part in a European Thematic Network, which would provide them with a very useful co-ordinating structure.

Stru Funds 2014-20 eligibility mapIt is encouraging to see that at the last ESF Committee meeting in Athens on 18-20 June 2014, EU member states chose social economy as one of the top 5 common themes for the ESF in the 2014-2020 programming period. The ESF Committee is tripartite, meaning it is composed of representatives of the governments, employers and trade unions – but it has no representation from civil society or NGOs. This is increasingly anachronistic as the ESF is just as much concerned with social inclusion as with the labour market specifically.
A presentation by Sónia de Melo Xavier from DG EMPL/E1 shows that the top themes chosen are:

    • inclusion – 16 MS
    • employment – 13 MS
    • youth employment – 13 MS
    • social economy – 12 MS
    • learning and skills – 12 MS

Being chosen as one of the ‘common themes’ is important as it means that an official Thematic Network would be set up, enabling all the stakeholders (including NGOs), to develop a strategic overview.

A structure for voluntary collaboration

Transnationality is obligatory for all EU countries in this new programming period, and there is a widespread feeling that the lack of any co-ordination structures in the 2007-13 period, since the abolition of the community initiative EQUAL, has not been to anyone’s advantage. How member states manage transnationality is now up to them. At the minimal level it could be just through bilateral or multilateral deals. But to make it work properly, and make it easy to transfer learning, it is obvious that some common agreements are needed, along with some structures to support these. During 2012-13 the Transnational Co-operation (TNC) learning network discussed how a renewed ‘common framework’ might operate. At the June 1014 ESF Committee meeting, it emerged that 13 member states are interested in being part of this framework: BEnl (Flanders), CZ, FI, HR, IR, IT, LT, LU, MT, NL, PL, SE & UK. This is a strangely heterogeneous mixture, including some countries that are not famed for their propensity to collaborate (NL, UK) and, more worryingly omitting some large countries with much to share (DE, ES, FR). Germany, however, indicates that it intends to adopt the ‘combined approach’, i.e. part of its transnational work will be within the common framework and part outside it. Spain says it intends to implement all common themes at once. Cyprus on the other hand is likely to opt out. The mainstays of mutual learning in EQUAL are there though: BEnl, FI, IT and PL.
As regards setting up the shared structures, the Commission indicated that it intended to set about appointing a technical assistance team during 2014 – but this has so far not materialised. As the idea is that everyone would publish co-ordinated calls for projects in 2015 and 2018, there is going to be a rush to establish the necessary administrative structures such as a database.

5,000 jobs in Romania

As a footnote, the good record of the social economy as a job-creation tool figures in the evaluation of the achievements of the ESF during the 2007-13 period. In Romania, 4,684 jobs were created in the social economy (Final Synthesis Report: Main ESF achievements, 2007-2013 – ESF Expert Evaluation Network (26 Mar 14).

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