The Enterprises and the Europe 2020 Strategy: Innovative solutions for a sustainable Europe conference was held in Brussels earlier this month where the Various Interests Group of the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) analyzed the present and future of social enterprises in Europe.
Their message was simple: in face of the current crisis situation, where the number of people without a job or access to economic resources is steadily increasing, they want to see social enterprises strengthen growth, employment, and competitiveness while creating a more inclusive society that is in line with the Europe 2020 strategy.
“Social enterprises have proven to be more resilient in the current crisis, and should therefore play a key role in Europe’s exit strategy from the crises while contributing to a faster and fairer recovery. We call on national and European policy-makers to politically support the social economy and social enterprises, and to create a level-playing field which will unleash the potential of this key economic sector”, stated Luca Jahier, President of the EESC Various Interests Group.
The social economy sector currently employs more than 14 million people in the EU, or more than 6% of all workers. But social enterprises do not enjoy a level playing field with traditional economic operators. They have legal, administrative, financial, and political obstacles to overcome.
Still, the EESC vows to defend the role of social enterprises. They urge member states to facilitate participation in public procurements to economic operators whose principal objective is the social and professional integration of disabled or disadvantaged workers, provided that a threshold of 30% of disabled or disadvantaged workers is respected.
They also propose a rapid launch of a European Foundation Statute (to facilitate cross-border activities of public benefit purpose foundations), the adoption of a Statute for a European Association (allowing non-profits to operate throughout the EU), and a review of the value and usability of a European Social Enterprises label.
A third demand that specifically targets young social entrepreneurs is to mobilize the European Social Fund to include “investment priority” for social enterprises after 2014, allowing better access to capital for these startups.
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