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Parliament discusses intergroup agenda 15 November 2014

Posted by cooperatoby in EU, social economy, Social enterprise.
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The European Parliament has not yet chosen which intergroups will exist in the 2014-19 mandate, but a sort of proto-Social Economy Intergroup met on 13th November. It was well attended and discussed an agenda for the next five years.

IMG_3938 EP hemicycleIt was encouraging to see the relatively large number of MEPs present, although at mid-point a bell summoned them to a plenary vote, leaving Jan Olsson in charge. Jens Nilsson (S&D, SE) chaired the hearing, and six other MEPs intervened: Patrizia Toia (S&D, IT), Marie-Christine Vergiat (GUE/NGL, FR), Heinz Becker (EPP, AT), Sofia Ribeiro (EPP, PT), Beatriz Becerra (ALDE, ES) and Georgi Pirinski (S&D, BG).

Will there be an intergroup?

The continuation of the Social Economy Intergroup is not a foregone conclusion. Each political group has a limited number of votes to cast – 22 in the case of S&D and EPP, and 8 in the case of GUE/NGL. And they are up against some attractive competitors, as Heinz Becker reported, such as the proposed intergroups on wine, beer and hunting. It is also true that the vote may be split with other potential intergroups such as the one on public services. The vote on which intergroups will be established is set for 11th December, so let’s hope that three groups – where are the Greens? – will sign up.
Germania Viglietta, Social Attaché of the Italian EU Presidency, announced the four themes of the Rome conference next week: visibility, the legal framework, access to funding and stronger relationships with the public sector. Some 200 people are expected to attend, from 25 countries. Jan Olsson hoped for two key results: a statement supporting the continuation of the intergroup, and a roadmap for the development of the social economy.

An agenda for the next five years

There was unanimous agreement on the crying need for the social economy, above all to address Europe’s employment problem. The hearing collected priorities for future work:
For Jens Nilsson the priorities are public procurement, job creation and participative democracy. Following the adoption last year of Patrizia Toia’s report on worker take-overs, she thinks that this should be a permanent EU budget line. Georgi Pirinski suggested that the mid-term review of the Europe 2020 strategy would be a good opportunity to move the social economy up the list of policy priorities.
The perennial issue of definitions cropped up: for instance it’s an issue in Spain, where the social economy in many people’s mind equates to employment for disabled people, whereas in fact it provides 2.5 million direct jobs and is the only sector of the economy that is creating jobs. While the MEPs are happy with the concept of social economy and social entrepreneurship, they are dubious about ‘social business’.
The potential intergroup’s agenda seems to be shaping up to include:

• follow-up on Europe 2020: meaningful jobs for young people, the white and green economies
• renewal of the SBI, including the EU-wide internet platform
• public procurement: ensuring the Member States don’t close the windows that the EU has opened when they transpose the directive
• cohesion policy: a voice for the social economy in the committees that control the Structural Funds
• co-operative banks and capital adequacy
• statutes: given the lack of progress on a European Association Statute. maybe we should look at a European statute for sociétés de personnes (+/- partnerships)

Stakeholder support

The hearing gave space to two stakeholder groups which support the intergroup’s continuation. Harald Hauven of Social Services Europe pointed to the immense potential for job creation in health and social services. Michel Mercadié of the Social Platform had three priorities: clarifying the status of profit-making in social enterprises, measuring social added value, and the role of finance. He pointed out that there is a difference between hybrid financing from multiple sources, and handing over the social economy to investors. He also said that the issue on job creation is not just about quantity but also quality: jobs for whom (the disadvantaged), for what (to meet needs), where (neighbourhood renewal), how (with participation) and with whom (volunteers). The ecosystem requires the structuring of the public sector, an inter-DG structure within the Commission, an observatory and a representative forum.
The intergroup is an important forum. Watch this space.

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