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 28 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 1st of January 2022, the Presidency of the European Union is ensured by Slovenia.
Moreover, this unique interview is the combination of our usual ZOOM IN interviews, and a focus on our newest member organization. Enjoy the read!
Interview with Petra Peternel, CAAP President.
CECOP (C): Hi Petra, thank you so much for sitting down with us. As the President of CAAP Slovenia, can you tell us a little more about your organization?
Petra Peternel (PP): CAAP stands for Center for Alternative and Autonomous Production, and was established in 2011, as a matter of fact we will be celebrating our 10th anniversary this year.
CAAP was originally established as an umbrella organization for cooperatives and social economy enterprises in Maribor, Slovenia. We started by developing practices in the field of ecology, migrant support, Roma population support, mobility etc., with different programs, always acting as the communicators and reference center for the organizations.
In 2014 we started to see a big grow on the number of cooperatives at the local level, and national level. During that time, we managed to move to a bigger building, and started supporting more than 60 cooperatives and social economy enterprises in Slovenia. It was at this time when national policymakers and decision makers started working with us.
One thing that must be noted is that we decided that we would no longer be a membership-based organization, but rather have partners, as it fits better with our scope.
C: What are CAAP’s mission and goals?
PP: The CAAP Mission is to help communities and revitalize social processes, developing coops, supporting social economy, and putting social innovation in practice.
The ultimate goals are to empower individuals, and communities, promote initiatives, strengthen the sector and our organization while increasing our knowledge.
C: What kind of cooperatives CAAP helped to develop since its creation in 2011?
PP: Since the beginning, we have helped cooperatives in different sectors. Some examples could be the Cooperative Dobrina, a small farming cooperative that connected farmers from the region, that nowadays has grown and consists of 120 members, and is very successful.
Another success example is Cooperative Soglasnik, a translators and interpreters cooperative from Ljubljana, that has become a good partner and collaborator. We have been working all around with different cooperatives in different sectors.
C: CECOP and CAAP have a long history. The joining of CAAP in CECOP is a confirmation of a good longstanding collaboration in the consolidation of the worker and social cooperative movement in Slovenia and the enrichment of the cooperative movement in Europe. How do you think both organizations can benefit from it?
PP: For us it is a pleasure, and opportunity to be able to learn from your work, and from other members. It is a great standing point for us to see how to develop the support services and which strategic steps to take for the better development of cooperatives in Slovenia.
In particular, worker cooperatives in Slovenia are still few, so we are looking forward to learning more on this typology of cooperatives via your network, strengthen our cooperation, and learn from each other.
C: Looking at the future. What are your plans for the development of social and worker cooperatives in Slovenia? What is expected from CAAP in the upcoming years?
PP: We recently did the strategic plan for the upcoming years, and we have a clearer vision on what we would like to see in the field of the social economy in Slovenia.
We have set up a few milestones, such as working with schools to add cooperativism education in school curricula. Furthermore, there is a cooperative union in Slovenia, but now it is only for agricultural cooperatives, so we would like to liaise with them to promote unions also for other cooperative sectors.
C: What do you think is the value of being involved in the European worker and social cooperative movement?
PP: I think first, it would be important to bring the conversation to Slovenian policymakers, and have the wider public see the importance of the cooperative movement.
Furthermore, the general public needs to see the characteristics of worker and social cooperatives, beyond them being democratically managed, but also how they respond to the needs of the communities. This type of organized work has so much value and is a great mindset that we can apply to our work, but also to our lives.
C: How have worker and social cooperatives in Slovenia been affected during the pandemic, and what do you think the EU needs to do to support a quick and inclusive recovery?
PP: The COVID-19 pandemic has shaken everyone and everything, from our healthcare, our welfare system, pensions, everything in the society has been affected, and Slovenian organizations have not been the exception.
With that being said, the European Pillar of Social Rights action plan could address some of the aspects, but we still need to see the outcomes in the long run.
C: During the first half of 2021, the EU adopted the EU pillar of social rights action plan. How do you contribute to the implementation of social rights in Slovenia?
PP: We have some good practices, and we have a lot of positive stories in the field, from housing coops, consumer coops, and worker coops, among others. We have seen them flourish and will continue to happily support them in their development.
Furthermore, we have formed a council for Social Economy in Slovenia with other relevant social economy actors, however the government still needs to activate it, but things are slowly happening.
Sadly enough, the government does not support them sufficiently, so we are positively waiting for the best, in order to expand the movement even further. We are trying to support social economy enterprises to deliver on the European Pillar of Social Rights, but we need the governments will and support. Only than we can ensure that the Social Rights of all citizens are respected.
C: Under the Slovenian Presidency, we will see the introduction of the EU action plan for the Social Economy. What are your main hopes for this plan?
PP: The Social Economy Action Plan needs to be people centered. A strong and healthy social economy is not only a value in itself but helps people to have better life and decent work. This means a focus on education, training, lifelong learning, and so forth.
We would like to see that there are equal opportunities for all, decent wages, and pensions. We would also like to see effective social dialogue and see in practice the work integration into labor market by disadvantaged groups and individuals such as those who have been unemployed for a long time.
In terms of the sector, we would like to see bigger recognition of social economy enterprises, and a better understanding of the cooperative movement and their contribution to society.
C: What do you think policymakers in Ljubljana and Brussels should do to support your work for the social economy in Slovenia?
PP: It would be great if they would acknowledge even further the social economy sector in Slovenia. Furthermore, as previously mentioned, the council for Social Economy has been formed, but not yet put into action, so we are patiently waiting to start.
An effective dialogue between policymakers, actors the field, and cooperatives should be initiated for better cooperation.
Additionally, Slovenia needs to reform the law on cooperatives, and it would also be useful to have a worker buyout law.
It would also be necessary for us to also have statistics and monitoring on the sector, as there are not any data gathering mechanisms put in place for our sector.
C: Thank you for your time!