European Social Economy Action Plan
In 2021, the European Commission announced the European Social Economy Action Plan. Lasting for five years (2021-2026), the plan aims to upscale the social economy actors enhancing their recognition and potential, including for the social enterprises of the circular economy. RREUSE has been contributing to the Action Plan implementation in various forms: through detailed position papers, meetings with EU officials and external stakeholders, responses to consultations, involving its members in its opportunities, co-creating some of its initiatives and providing empirical data on jobs and skills in the circular economy.
On behalf of our membership, our main policy recommendations encompass the following:
- Mainstream the social economy within circular policies and beyond;
- Recognise the social enterprises’ contribution to a socially inclusive circular economy;
- Improve access to funding for social enterprises, including via public procurement, state aid, and EU and national funds;
- Acknowledge the role played by social enterprises in re- and up-skilling all workers, especially vulnerable groups, to meet changing market needs.
The 2014 EU Public Procurement Directive allows Member States to integrate social and environmental considerations into public procurement procedures. However, while some Member States showed some encouraging initiatives, socially responsible and green public procurement remains largely untapped.
What are we working on?
- Engage with policymakers to discuss policy recommendations on behalf of members to ensure social enterprises’ access to public procurement.
- Gathering data on behalf of social enterprises to present encouraging opportunities and policy initiatives in support of public procurement for social enterprises.
- Raise awareness of how public procurement should be leveraged for public objectives, including via public events and publications.
The EU VAT system reform can play a role in the transition to a resource-efficient and more inclusive economy. Today, several Member States allow for reduced VAT rates on goods and services provided by social enterprises as they contribute to social welfare. However, this is far from the norm across Europe.
Following the 2022 EU VAT Directive revision, our policy recommendations include:
- Reduced VAT for products and services provided by social economy enterprises;
- Design VAT rates to progressively prioritise a shift to reuse, repair, and recycling activities, in line with the EU Waste Hierarchy;
- Promote guidance for better taxation towards social economy actors via publications, sharing national best VAT practices, and capacity-building sessions with national public officials.
RREUSE has been monitoring the development of EU State Aid legislation, among other things, by engaging in the current revisions of the De Minimis Aid and De Minimis Aid for Services of General Economic Interest (SGEI) Regulations which both began in 2022. Equally, in 2023 RREUSE has been supporting the assessment of the General Block Exemption Regulation (GBER) by sharing evidence on behalf of its members in consultations.
RREUSE will continue its data-based advocacy and EU-level engagement for adequate public investments for the employment of disadvantaged workers and circular economy activities of social enterprises.
The European Semester serves as the framework to coordinate macroeconomic policies across the European Union. Since 2018, we have conducted an annual analysis of the European Semester, taking stock of how the National Reform Programmes (NRPs) and the Country Specific Recommendations (CSRs) issued by the Commission reflect circular and social priorities.
What are we working on?
- Analysing the European Semester cycles and presenting recommendations to reinforce its social and environmental dimension;
- Sharing encouraging Member States’ practices across the EU with EU policymakers and members to foster replication for measures in support of the social and circular economies.
European Pillar of Social Rights
The European Pillar of Social Rights consists of twenty thematic principles, proclaimed by the European Commission in 2017 to create a more social Europe based on fairness, inclusivity and equal opportunity. The 2021 Social Pillar Action Plan that followed, sets out several concrete initiatives to create an ‘economy that works for people’ and address the dire socio-economic consequences caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Social entrepreneurship is key in making EU social rights a reality for EU citizens. Therefore, we work on:
- Ensuring that the main principles of the EU Pillar of Social are integrated into EU policies, including circular legislation;
- Contributing to the implementation of the Three 2030 Headline targets via the social enterprise ecosystem, as outlined in the EU pillar of Social Rights;
- Raising the visibility of which Social Pillar principles our members contribute to implementing and highlighting the importance of supporting measures for the social economy as one way to uphold the Pillar.
EU Pact for Skills
Launched on 10 November 2020, the EU Pact for Skills is the first flagship initiative of the European Skills Agenda aimed at supporting fair, green and digital transitions. The pact seeks to join the forces of different stakeholders in ensuring skilling and up-skilling of people. In 2022, RREUSE co-signed the Pact for Skills Partnership for the Proximity and Social Economy. In 2023, RREUSE has been engaging with several EU policy makers and stakeholders to illustrate recommendations and members’ skill development work, on the occasion of the 2023 European Year of Skills.
Our policy recommendations include:
- Recognise social enterprises as skills providers, including for the green transition, in labour market policies;
- Enhance the recognition of skill qualifications provided by social economy enterprises;
- Adapt Vocational Education and Training (VET) to promote a learner-centric and inclusive approach to skills;
- Ensure everyone can access upskilling and reskilling opportunities;
European Social Fund
ESF+ is the EU’s main financial instrument to strengthen its social dimension by supporting job creation and equal opportunities for all. It also seeks to help EU Member States ensure just, green, digital transitions. ESF+ also actively supports the development of social enterprises due to their role as job creators, integration of vulnerable groups and their valuable contributions to up-skilling and re-skilling.
For this reason, RREUSE has been recommending the following:
- Increase avenues and availability of financial support for social enterprises within ESF+ and beyond, as a way to implement the European Pillar of Social Rights and reach climate neutrality before 2050.
- Earmark 10% of relevant EU funding to social enterprises and other social economy actors.
- Raise awareness of the social enterprises active in the circular economy contribution to the green and circular job creation, integration of vulnerable groups and promoting access to training and skills to meet the changing market needs.