EP report on SBI

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European Parliament strengthens the Social and Solidarity Economy

On Tuesday, 20 Nov 2012 the European Parliament adopted its report on the EU Social Business Initiative. It stresses the necessity of adequate financial support of social enterprises which promote quality employment and combat social exclusion. Across Europe there are about 2 million enterprises like cooperatives, foundations, associations and mutual societies with at least 11 million employees. In 2011, the European Commission proposed a programme for the promotion of a social and solidarity-based economy. The report improves the sector's visibility, the legislative framework as well as the access to financial resources.

Sven Giegold, Green economic and finance spokesperson and shadow rapporteur states:

The report of the VP Member Becker has been adopted by a large majority. It addresses many demands raised in my report on supporting the cooperative sector adopted in March 2012.

Business oriented towards the common good is a key element of an eco-social market economy. The Commission's proposals for the strengthening of this sector are appropriate and important. The European Parliament entirely supports the Commission's position. In addition, we have put forward several proposals deriving from Green positions.

The knowledge about social enterprises and their visibility need to be increased. We therefore call upon the Commission to implement a broad information campaign and proposals for reliable statistics on social enterprises. We welcome the strengthening of associations, cooperatives and foundations through European statutes. We are particularly pleased that the report stresses the need to improve the position of social business in the single European market. The sector needs better access to procurement as well as to loans and credits. Moreover, bureaucratic obstacles to European financial resources have to be removed.

Unfortunately, the text does not always state clearly the diversity of social economy enterprises. These are active in all economic sectors, not only in care and integration. It is regrettable that despite the Commission's commitment in 2004 to strengthen cooperatives, little progress has been made. Especially with regards to the International Year of Cooperatives, further necessary steps need to be launched now.

Overview of the report's key demands:

Raising awareness and a better understanding of social enterprises

The European Parliament:

  • asks for recognition and appropriate financial and structural support of the various sectors of the social economy at local, national and European level;
  • calls on the Commission and the Member States to ensure that social enterprises should not be disadvantaged by other types of enterprises that "cherry-pick" lucrative areas in the social economy;
  • calls for adequate support to continue the Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs programme to improve its attractiveness and visibility also in the social economy; recalls, however, that self-employment has to be accompanied by the provision of sufficient guidance
  • supports the introduction of European statutes on associations, mutual societies and foundations as well as the simplification of the statute for Statute for a European Cooperative Society
  • encourages Member States that not yet introduced a national statute for mutuals to do so;
  • calls for a comparative study, initiated by the Commission and carried out in cooperation with social enterprises, of the various national and regional legal frameworks throughout the EU, and of the operating conditions and characteristics for social enterprises, including their size and number and their field of activities, as well as of national certification and labelling systems;
  • asks the Commission to improve the understanding of, and the knowledge about, social enterprises and the social economy, and to improve the visibility of both, by supporting academic research, inter alia in the context of the 8th Framework Programme (Horizon), and to launch a regular activity report on social enterprises and their social performances;
  • asks the Member States to follow-up on the Commission's call for proposals to have reliable statistics on social enterprises developed by national statistical offices;
  • calls for a broad information campaign, supported by the Commission, the Member States and social partners, to be launched by means of introducing an accessible, multilingual website that provides quick and easy information on social products and services for citizens;
  • supports the Commission proposal to set up a multilingual, accessible and user-friendly online platform for social enterprises that should, inter alia, enable peer learning and the exchange of tried-and-tested models, foster the development of partnerships, facilitate information-sharing about access to funding and about training opportunities, and that should serve as a network for cross-border cooperation; calls on the Commission and the Member States to pay attention to social business under the Open Method of Coordination;
  • calls on the Commission and the Member States to consider the feasibility and desirability of developing a European social label to be awarded to social enterprises to ensure better access to public and socially innovative procurement without infringing any competition rules; suggests that enterprises bearing such a label should be monitored regularly regarding their compliance with the provisions set out in the label;
  • calls on the Member States to consider the benefits of including principles of social business/social entrepreneurship and social responsibility in the content of teaching programmes of schools, universities and other educational institutions, and in life-long learning programmes, in order to help develop social and civic competences and to support job placements in social enterprises; calls as well on the Commission and on the Member States to support conventional and web-based education of social entrepreneurs and to promote a closer cooperation between social enterprises, commercial enterprises and the academic world in order to raise awareness, and a better understanding, of social enterprises, as well as to fight any stereotypes that might exist;

Adjusting the legal framework for supporting social business

  • calls for EU public procurement rules that apply the principle of the "most economically advantageous tender (MEAT)" rather than the principle of "lowest cost" when contracting service provision out;
  • considers it necessary to create conditions under which social enterprises can gain financial independence and engage in commercial business activity;
  • calls on the Commission and the Member States to pay attention to social business under the Open Method of Coordination;
  • calls on the Commission and the Member States to integrate social enterprises in employment and social inclusion action plans, and supports the establishment of a European Award for Social Entrepreneurship to recognise its social effects;

Improving access to financial resources

  • stresses the need to support social enterprises through sufficient financial means at local, regional, national and EU level, and points to the relevant funds under the Multiannual Financial Framework 2014-2020 (such as European Social Fund, the European Regional Development Fund, the Agricultural Fund for Rural Development, the Programme for Social Change and Innovation, the Programme for Research and Innovation, as well as Horizon 2020); explicitly asks support for innovative social enterprises, in particular those promoting quality employment, combating poverty and social exclusion and investing in education, training and lifelong learning;
  • Underlines that access to EU funding must be simplified while allowing for adequate flexibility at Member State level, and that funding opportunities should be made available and clearly advertised and, in addition, that organisational, administrative and accounting requirements should be simplified;
  • welcomes the adoption of the revised package of EU state-aid rules concerning social and local services whilst encouraging the Commission to further clarify these rules so as to facilitate their understanding and application by local and regional authorities, in particular with regard to social enterprises;

Link to the adopted text: http://www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getDoc.do?pubRef=-//EP//TEXT+TA+P7-TA-2012-0429+0+DOC+XML+V0//EN

My report on supporting the cooperative sector: http://www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getDoc.do?type=TA&reference=P7-TA-2012-0071&language=EN&ring=A7-2011-0432

Source: SVen giegold MEP