Social economy category 2016 activity report

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European Economic and Social Committee

Brief description of the Category and its members
In 2016, the Social Economy Category was composed of 38 members representing cooperatives, mutual societies, associations, foundations, social enterprises and social NGOs. In recent years, the membership of the Category has remained relatively stable in numbers, but the Category has continued to widen the scope of its activities and influence.
Main achievements of the Category in 2016
There is no doubt that the Social Economy Category is instrumental in promoting the sector throughout the EESC, working in parallel to the Permanent Study Group (PSG) on Social Enterprises. During the course of 2016, substantial efforts have been made to better coordinate activities with the PSG, with a view to ensuring an overarching EESC strategy. This has translated into an emphasis on regular exchanges of information, reciprocal support and avoiding the duplication of activities between the two bodies.
In 2016, particular efforts have been made to enhance political cooperation with the European institutions (see in particular the 2nd meeting of the Category) and to maintain pressure on the EC for a Social Economy Action Plan in 2017. To this effect, the co-spokespersons sent a letter to the Slovak Presidency of the EU stressing the importance of such an Action Plan. A copy of this letter was sent to the Maltese Presidency.
It should also be noted that due to the participation of the co-spokespersons of the Category in the meetings of the bureau of the Social Economy Intergroup of the European Parliament, the Category has benefited from up to date political information.
Moreover, in 2016, the Category has taken the initiative to solicit a new study on the social economy in the 28 Member States, which will be presented in June 2017. Indeed, during the course of 2016, there has been a very strong emphasis on the opportunities and challenges facing the Social Economy at the national level and on how the European Institutions could support the further development of the sector at this level.
Finally, it is argued that the suggestions for activities identified in the 2015 report on the Social Economy Category, have all been attained (please refer to Appendix I).
Overview of the Category meetings outlining main topics and speakers
It is recalled that the meeting scheduled for 23 March was cancelled due to the terrorist attacks on 22 March. The memos on all three of the 2016 meetings are available upon request from the Secretariat of Group III. Moreover, all available presentations can be downloaded from the website of the Social Economy Category.

  • 29 June, morning – 1st meeting.

This constituted the first meeting with the newly elected co-spokespersons and concentrated on three items. Firstly, an exchange of views on the main priorities of the Category and its work programme for 2016. Secondly, a discussion with Mr Oliver Röpke, on future collaboration with the PST on Social Economy Enterprises. Thirdly, a presentation by Ms Marie Bouchard, author of the book The Weight, Size and Scope of the Social Economy in Europe, followed by a debate with the members of the Category.

  • 29 June, afternoon – 2nd meeting.

At this second meeting, a high-level political debate took place with representatives of the Council, European Commission and the European Parliament, in which Mr Dassis, President of the EESC also took part. Three Secretaries of State (Poland, France and Slovakia) and two high-ranking government representatives from Luxembourg and Spain presented the state of the Social Economy in their respective countries. This was followed by a debate with two heads of unit from the European Commission (DG GROWTH and DG EMPL) and Mr Nilsson, in his capacity as co-President of the Social Economy Intergroup. The perspective of the EESC was officially presented by Ms Rodert, who participates in both the Social Economy Category and the PSG on Social Economy Enterprises.

  • 28 November – 3rd meeting.

Following an update on recent developments relating to the Social Economy by the co-spokespersons, the final meeting in 2016 concentrated on three issues. Firstly, a presentation by the EC on the final report of the Expert Group on Social Entrepreneurs (GECES), in which several EESC members took part. Secondly, an exchange of views on the external dimension of the Social Economy, with presentations by Mr Cabra de Luna, rapporteur of the EESC Own-initiative Opinion on this topic and the Director of SolSoc, the Belgian Socialist NGO which is very active in supporting the Social Economy in African countries. The last part of the meeting was dedicated to presentations by members of the Category on recent developments in the sector in Romania, Portugal and Spain.

Other events with the participation of the Category spokespersons
A list of events in which the spokespersons of the Category participated as speakers and represented the Category, is available below. Other members of the Category have participated in several other events.

  • 9 March 2016 – conference on "Social Enterpreneurship" in Prague, presentations on "The Social Economy and Social Enterprises" and "The Social Economy and its Definition"

  • 10 June 2016 – conference on "Open conference on the social economy" in Athens, presentation on "The Social Economy in Europe"

  • 6 October 2016 – conference on "Social Enterprises" in Lisbon, presentation on "The definitions, issues and possibilities of success of social enterprises in Europe"'.

Category initiatives (opinions, publications including links)
In 2016, at the initiative of the Social Economy Category, the EESC launched the tender procedure and signed the contract for the preparation of a study with CIRIEC: Recent Evolutions of the Social Economy in the European Union.
Challenges and suggestions for 2017
A discussion on the work programme for the Category in 2017 will be held at the first meeting on 4 April 2017.
Based on the discussions held at the first meeting of the Category in 2016, when the draft work programme was discussed, it would appear to be important for the Category to maintain a clear direction in its activities in 2017. Proposals made on that occasion included monitoring the public markets directive and exploring the extent to which the European Social Funds have actually been used to support the Social Economy in Member States. These topics could be considered in the 2017 work programme of the Category.

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Appendix I:
Challenges and Suggestions for 2016 (extract from the 2015 review of activities of the Social Economy Category)

  • continuing to mainstream the social economy in EESC Opinions and other Committee work;

  • ensuring close cooperation with the EESC's Permanent Study Group on Social Economy Enterprises and relevant EESC bodies;

  • consolidating relations with the Social Economy Intergroup of the European Parliament (e.g. greater participation in respective meetings);

  • contributing to the activities of Member States which are prioritising the social economy (e.g. French Social Economy Summit in June 2016 and forthcoming activities during the Slovak Presidency of the Council of the EU);

  • monitoring and indirectly contributing to the work of GECES;

  • exploring the possibility of commissioning a new report on "The Social Economy in the European Union";

  • facilitating the exchange of best practices between different Member States;

  • working towards an EU inter-institutional meeting with a view to coordinating the work of different EU institutions and bodies and developing a common understanding of the social economy, whilst taking into account the national specificities of the sector;

  • continue exploiting synergies with other Categories or Sections, where appropriate.

Appendix II:
Overview of language arrangements for category meetings
IN 2016





½ day

Requested: ES-EN-FR-IT-PL / EN-FR-PL

Obtained: ES-EN-FR-IT-PL / EN-FR-PL


½ day

Requested: ES-EN-FR-IT-PL / EN-FR-PL

Obtained: ES-EN-FR-IT-PL / EN-FR-PL


½ day

Requested: ES/EN/FR/IT/PL / ES/EN/FR/PL

Obtained: ES-EN-FR-IT-PL / ES/EN/FR/PL


EESC-2017-01607-00-00-INFO-TRA (EN) /4

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