‘Strasbourg declaration’ calls on governments to realise the potential of social enterprises and co-operatives

24 Feb 2014

Over 2,000 policy makers and social entrepreneurs from across the European Union’s 28 member states highlighted the importance of co-operatives at a high-level conference in Strasbourg.

The two-day event was organised by the European Commission and encouraged social entrepreneurs to “have their say” by joining the discussion on the role of social enterprises in the European economy.

The conference resulted in the “Strasbourg declaration” that calls on governments and public bodies to realise the potential of social enterprises for innovation, inclusive growth and jobs. The declaration reflects the contributions of the 2,000 delegates that took part in the conference is available online. It has been signed by more than 390 persons.

Speaking at the conference, Martin Schulz, the President of the European Parliament, said that no sector has been “as resilient as co-operatives during the crisis in Europe”. Panellists also discussed the issue of innovation within co-operatives.  

Antonio Tajani, Commissioner for Industry and Entrepreneurship said that “social co-operatives, by nature, are an innovative model". “They self-motivate’ all the time,” he explained.

Enrico Giovanni, Labour Minister of Italy, said that social enterprises should to identify needs and respond to them in an innovative way. The European Commissioner for Employment and Social Affairs, Laszlo Andor, also said: “The recession lasted much longer that what was acceptable and we were convinced from the start that the social economy and social enterprises were part of the solution”.

Another panellist at the conference, Marguite Mendell, Director of the Karl Polanyi Institute of Political Economy, emphasised the strong development of legislation in the field of social enterprises. She said that specific legislation on co-operatives and social enterprises existed particularly in the USA and some Canadian provinces and Korea.

She gave the example of the 1991 Italian law on social co-operatives, which she said had had a pioneering role and managed to influence other countries as well. In Cleveland, USA, worker co-operatives manage to create new opportunities for disadvantaged people. What came to be known as the “Cleveland Model” is now being disseminated to other cites across the USA, according to Ms Mendell.

Photo: Antonio Tajani speaking at the conference "Social Entrepreneur have your say", organised by the European Commission on 16-17 January.

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