Cooperative enterprises as part of the answer for Europe’s job challenge

Cooperatives Europe intervened at the EU conference on employment policy organised by the European Commission: “Jobs for Europe – the employment policy conference” on September 6, 2012. This high-level conference was opened by speeches from the EU’s three key leaders – the President of EU Commission, Mr. José Manuel Barroso, the President of the European Parliament, Mr. Martin Schulz and the President of the European Council, Mr. Herman van Rompuy.

Klaus Niederländer, Director of Cooperatives Europe, was invited to speak at the workshop on ‘Developing the social economy’, chaired by Marguerite Mendell from Concordia University, Montreal. In his speech, he stressed the role of cooperative enterprises in creating and maintaining long-term employment in Europe. Mr Niederländer highlighted the importance of members as owners of democratic enterprises, who look beyond short-term profit maximisation by focusing on long-term optimisation of resources to satisfy their various economic and social needs. This lead to the robustness of cooperatives during the current crisis, where cooperative banks are gaining market shares and industrial coops maintaining their employment level for example. At the same time cooperatives help build the new business sectors like renewable energies and in the health domain, capitalising on their social innovation potential. 

“A new balance between the various actors in society is needed – said Klaus Niederländer – in order to create the economically, socially and environmentally sustainable Europe of tomorrow”. Cooperatives, as part of the social economy, are driven by people for peopleThe social economy is not about dealing with a particular social sector within Europe’s economy, but about a way of doing business in all economic sectors based on values and principles putting people and not money first.

 Finally, Mr Niederländer put forward three elements for policymakers for developing a more balanced economy in Europe:

1.       A level-playing field should be ensured between all economic actors: differentiation,  not uniformisation (in particular not with a business model that is responsible for the recurrent crisis).

2.       An effective policy framework and enterprise support system needs to be put in place, which is based on bottom-up experience and focuses on impact and sustainability.

3.       A new partnership between economic actors and policy makers is required in Europe, which is based on transparency, accountability and the benefits that each economic actor provides to society. 

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