Readers note: European readers, TV viewers, citizens, in general, are regularly confronted with terms like the Austrian presidency or the Finnish Presidency of the EU. Newspapers and news broadcaster are often caught in the rush of breaking news to properly make these EU notions accessible to all. Fear not! We are here to help you navigate these institutional waters and then we will lead you to the country that is currently holding the Presidency.
The European Institution, which represents the interests of all 27 Member States, is the Council of the European Union. Together with the European Parliament (which represents the interest of European citizens), the Council legislates and decides over new directives and regulations (the European laws). The Council’s political priorities and calendars are set by one Member State at a time for the time span of 6 months each: this the famous rotation Presidency of the European Union.
At CECOP, we have proposed to our readers a focus on our national members when their country is holding the rotation Presidency of the EU. Until the 30th of June 2022, the Presidency of the European Union is ensured by France.
Moreover, this unique interview is the combination of our usual ZOOM IN interviews, and a focus on the 20th anniversary of the French social cooperatives (Sociétés cooperatives d’intérêt collectif or SCIC in French).
Enjoy the read!
Interview with Fatima Bellaredj, Director of CGSCOP.
CECOP (C): During the first semester of 2022, we are during the French Presidency of the European Council. For your organization, what are the most important current political issues, at the European and national levels?
Fatima Bellaredj (FB): In these times of great fragility (health crisis, war), we are defending a model that gives meaning to the economy and which is popular today: 87% of employees and 76% of managers in France consider that worker cooperatives (Sociétés Coopératives et Participative or SCOP in French) are companies of the future*. The cooperative model brings democracy into the company for the benefit of a better social stability, a fair distribution of wealth and a balanced, responsible, and resilient development.
We cannot let societal and environmental issues remain a secondary issue in our policies. To do so would be to choose to remain blind to the concerns of the younger generations, for whom finding meaning in their work has become the number one choice criterion, and to the imperative need to allow them to do so in a serene living context, while climate issues are becoming increasingly oppressive.
(* Source : OpinionWay 2022 - baromètre de la nouvelle performance des entreprises 2e édition).
C: How do you perceive the impact of European policies on your members in their daily life? Can you give some examples?
FB: European policies allow companies to innovate and experiment. Funding for social innovation has made it possible to initiate projects in emerging sectors such as energy, housing, food and health. Numerous cooperatives, in particular social cooperatives have been created with the support of social innovation incubators such as Alter'Incub, an innovative system that has spread to several regions in France.
We can also note the development of cooperatives of self-employed producers (coopérative d'activités et d'emploi or CAE in French) which offer a secure alternative to self-employment and the creation of an "independent" activity, the responses to societal and environmental issues (mobility, circular economy, sustainable food) which find in our statutory forms a favorable context for their development.
Finally, the cyclo-logistics sector in cooperative status responds to a major challenge for bicycle delivery companies. The cooperative model responds in every way to the professionalization of their profession without having to undergo the uberization and the precariousness of a frantic development of new consumption modes.
C: French social cooperatives are celebrating their 20th anniversary, congratulations! What have been the main trends and achievements of French social cooperatives over the last 20 years that you would like to highlight?
FB: At the end of 2021, French social cooperatives included more than 1,200 companies, 94,500 members and 13,190 employees. This status responds to the challenges of social innovation and governance to allow the realization of projects of collective interest and societal impact.
A lot of progress has been made by CGSCOP to bring about innovative projects under this status, which allows all the actors involved to sit around the table.
In order to ensure their good development, we published the first legal guide for social cooperatives, but also supported the development of activities in the whole of the sectors of activities where new models of governance were awaited to accompany the transformation of the expectations of the operators as well as of the beneficiaries and sometimes of the public actors: renewable energies, environment, agriculture and sustainable food, local services.
The Licoornes collective, which groups together social cooperatives in the sectors of mobility, sustainable food, the economy of functionality, etc., is a good example of what these statutes allow for the development of sustainable activities within a framework of shared multi-stakeholder governance.
The social cooperatives agora will highlight all these advances during the 20 years celebration event that we had to postpone to October 13th, 2022.
C: How did cooperatives in France cope with the COVID-19 pandemic? What are your hopes and plans for the post-pandemic recovery?
FB: The cooperatives very quickly benefited from the support of their Movement. The pandemic was a demonstration of what the strength of the collective allows: CGSCOP and the Regional Unions of worker and social cooperatives have implemented very quick and concrete actions to ensure that none of the member cooperatives would be left on their own in this unprecedented context.
The follow-up of the support at the regional level has been amplified, at a distance, in order to leave no one on the side of the road, and it has also been associated with an immediate financial support to allow the continuation of the activity when it was possible and especially the financial stability of the employees and the companies.
To date, there has been no net impact of this exceptional period on the level of failure of our cooperatives. On the contrary, the number of worker and social cooperatives has not stopped growing over the last two years. However, we are very attentive to possible longer-term counterblows, for activities that could nevertheless have been weakened.
The existing financial tools and those that the Movement has acquired to respond to this health crisis currently allow us to ensure continued growth.
This is evidenced by the unprecedented attendance at our Congress in Rennes in March 2022, which brought together 1,500 people and during which we adopted our orientation text for the next four years.
C: Thank you for your time, and we wish you a very happy anniversary!