EU Commission releases report of cooperative working group to foster cooperatives’ potential in the EU

The European Commission recently published the report of the cooperative working group ‘Fostering cooperatives’ potential to generate smart growth & jobs” with first concrete recommendations for EU policymakers on its website.

The working group was set up in 2013 by former Commissioner Tajani to assess the specific needs of cooperative enteprises with regard to a wide variety of issues. In particular the experts focused on three priority topics for cooperatives: entrepreneurship and education, financing and business support services.

Cooperative entrepreneurship and education – Cooperatives support the EU Commission’s Entrepreneurship 2020 Action Plan, which identifies entrepreneurial education and training  as a key area for supporting enterprise development and growth. Nevertheless, its rather generic entrepreneurship education and management training approach does not take into account the diversity of business models and how they operate. The working group thus recommends to include cooperatives in school curricula, EU training programmes and recommendations to Member States governments. 

Financing of cooperatives – the financial crisis has made SMEs’ access to capital harder; on top of that cooperatives are often less attractive to financial investors resulting in greater difficulties to access capital. The working group recommends actions  to improve access to financing for cooperative enterprises.

Business development support – While the EU has started in recent years to develop business support services for small business, a cooperative entrepreneur is not always able to find specific support services for launching a cooperative project. For this reason cooperative experts recommended to include the cooperative dimension into existing business support networks. 

Dirk J. Lehnhoff, President of Cooperatives Europe said: “We are very pleased about this collaboration with the European Commission and about the first outcomes we have reached now. The setting up of the is permanent working group and the release of the report show a real recognition of cooperatives as an economic actor in the EU. It is important now that those policy recommendations and concrete actions as outlined in the report will be taken into account in relevant current and future EU policies and programmes. The first step will be the circulation and the promotion of this document, for which cooperative organisations are ready to do their part besides the EU Commission”.

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