The conference, Social Economy: Leading economic growth and social cohesion, ran between 14 and 18 May and was the first sector-focused conference the European Parliament has hosted. Filippo Addarii, head of Acevo’s international programme, who was at the conference, said it was a significant step.
"The sector has penetrated the walls of the parliament," he said. "The next target is the European Commission.”
Miguel Angel Cabra de Luna, director for international affairs at Once, a Spanish blindness foundation that is funded by a lottery scheme, also took part in the event. He said that uncertainty caused by the introduction of internal markets in social services and the sector’s lack of representation in the ‘social dialogue’ between employers and unions are also challenges that need to be overcome if the sector is to flourish.
In an internal market, it is logical there is a regulatory framework that allows all businesses to compete on equal terms at European level, said Cabra de Luna, who was acting as a spokesman for the social economy division of the European Economic and Social Committee. For the moment, that’s not the case for associations, co-operatives, or foundations.
He said the sector’s lack of representation in national and European statistics was one of the biggest obstacles to the recognition by public authorities of the importance of our industry.
The European 'social economy' – which includes foundations, co-operatives, associations and cooperatives – employs more than 11 million people, amounting to almost 7 per cent of the continent’s population, according to Cabra de Luna.