Cooperatives Europe meets Commissioner Nicolas Schmit to discuss the implementation of the SEAP

On Monday 10 October, our President Susanne Westhausen and director Agnès Mathis had the opportunity to meet with Nicolas Schmit, EU commissioner on jobs and social rights. This meeting was an occasion to exchange with the Commissioner about Cooperatives Europe’s members’ actions on sustainable development and resilience in the context of the pandemic and war in Ukraine. We also discussed more broadly our objectives and challenges for the coming years.

Our president Susanne Westhausen thanked Commissioner Schmit for his efforts to support social economy enterprises through the Action Plan and other key measures under his portfolio such as the Pact for Skills or the European Pillar of Social Rights Action Plan.

We discussed the implementation of the SEAP and particularly the upcoming EU Council Recommendation for developing framework conditions for the social economy. We drew attention to the lack of recognition of cooperatives across Member States and thus the importance to build shared foundations and a common understanding of social economy throughout Europe before moving further in the coordination process.

Potential solutions and policy options were explored in relation to adapting the legal framework to the social economy, particularly in two areas in which the cooperative movement has developed clear recommendations: access to finance and state aid. The importance of carrying out a mapping of social economy entities in Member States was stressed as a helpful measure to shed some light on certain understudied topics like the governance and ownership criteria within social economy organisations.

The discussions also covered the topics of the youth, skills, and entrepreneurship, which are particularly important in light of the forthcoming Youth Entrepreneurship Policy Academy and 2023 European Year of Skills.

Finally, when asked about the follow-up of the implementation of the Council Recommendation, Commissioner Schmit reminded that, despite the inherently non-binding nature of the document, social economy organisations have a role to play at the national level. In that regard, the diversity of our members will certainly be an asset.

We are delighted to see that this meeting was another step towards a regular and open dialogue with the Commission. Cooperatives Europe and its members will remain an active partner of the Commission and will follow up on the Action Plan, the Council recommendation on the legal framework, and other topics for the development of the sectors of cooperative enterprises.

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