Giuseppe Guerini, President of CECOP, was in Sofia on 16 April 2018 to participate to the high-level international conference on Social Economy, for an “Economically sustainable and socially inclusive EU”, organised in the framework of the Bulgarian presidency of the EU.

The European Commission has been lately more active to bring the social dimension back on the European agenda. Key in this is the “European Pillar of Social Rights”. The Pillar has been jointly signed by the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission on 17 November 2017, at the Social Summit for Fair Jobs and Growth in Gothenburg, Sweden.

With this, the European leaders commit themselves to a set of 20 principles and rights. From the right to active support to employment, to the right to health care; from lifelong learning, a better work-life balance and gender equality to minimum income. With the European Pillar of Social Rights, the EU wants to “stand up for the rights of its citizens in a fast-changing world” said the moderator of the morning panel Patrick Develtere, principal adviser on European social policy at the European Political Strategy Centre of the European Commission.

The social economy, and in particular the worker and social cooperatives, concretely contribute to the major objectives of the Pillar, i.e. equal opportunities and access to the labour market; fair working conditions and social protection. In other words, they contribute to the resilience and the quality of life of people as well as to the resilience and quality of the society in which we live.

In his speech, Mr Guerini underlined the cooperative movement has been asking for a “more social Europe” for many years and the Pillar of Social Rights is certainly a “good start” to those demands: “This initiative from the Commission has been important to raise awareness among the Member States on the need of a more social Europe, to demonstrate that business activities, investments and the social dimension can be combined to create growth and development.

Asked how cooperatives, and more broadly enterprises in the social economy, should be supported by governments in their development, Mr Guerini answered: “First of all, is the recognition of the strategic role that social economy enterprises can play, freeing up the potential they can bring into play. We must also recognize their "active contribution" to the sustainability of the local economies: we have very interesting examples of enterprises that play a real role as agents of local development. This ability must be supported with regulatory policies. An example concerns the public procurements: from this point of view the 2014 Procurement and Concession Directive is a clear positive example, thanks to the provision of social clauses and reserved contracts for enterprises involved in work integration of disadvantaged people.

Another very useful public policy passes through the taxation lever, with facilitation and simplification mechanisms. This does not just mean reducing taxes; and nor is it a question of losing revenue from the State taxes, because what seems lost on the one hand can be greatly increased by savings and efficiency, for example in reducing poverty. For example, if I give up a share of taxes owed by the company on the work done by a disadvantaged worker, but I save money that I would have to spend on subsidies and assistance for this people. We can have an obvious benefit. What is needed is to learn how to measure it. In Italy for example, we are using an evaluation method that measures these relationships with a scientific analysis validated by a university.”