Ten European Union member states have signed a declaration highlighting that the social economy is a key player in providing effective answers to current social challenges. Signed on 1 December 2016, the Bratislava Declaration is also urging member states to use the recommendations of the report released by the European Commission’s Expert Group on Social Entrepreneurship (GECES).
Cooperatives Europe, the regional office of the International Co-operative Alliance, has welcomed the declaration. The document was presented at the International Conference on Social Economy in Bratislava, which took place on 30 November -1 December.
The recent GECES report was released on 15 November 2016 following a consultation with the stakeholder community, to which Cooperative Europe contributed through a representative. The report includes many references to co-operatives, as well as a specific section dedicated to co-ops and mutuals.
A paragraph on co-operatives and mutual societies calls upon the Commission and member states to stimulate cross-border operations that would enable co-operatives to use the full potential of the Internal Market to expand their activities.
Cooperative Europe adds that the social economy does not only touch upon social issues, giving the example of co-operatives active in the industry, production or services sectors. The Alliance’s regional office also supports the proposal for a European Action Plan for the Social Economy and Social Enterprises, to stimulate the promotion of an enabling environment for the social economy to flourish, building on its core values such as democratic governance, social impact, innovation, profit reinvestment or the emphasis on placing people at the centre of economics.
Agnes Mathis, director of Cooperatives Europe believes the Declaration and the GECES report could contribute to the development of co-operative enterprises and other social economy enterprises. However, she warned that the Action Plan should not be considered a niche, which would hamper the participation of co-operatives to other activities of the Commission.