European Commission unveils the EU Action Plan for Social Economy
– What’s in it for Europe’s Roma?
On 9 December 2021, the European Commission proposed an EU Social Economy Action Plan, aimed at putting forward concrete measures to help mobilise the full potential of social economy, including through improved visibility and recognition and access to finance and markets.
ERGO Network has closely engaged with the run-up to the Action Plan, with a view to raising awareness on the key role social economy can play in contributing to Roma inclusion and to delivering on the objectives of the EU Roma Strategic Framework. In 2020, we released a comprehensive position paper, The role of Social Economy in supporting Roma social and economic inclusion. A close-up on the Covid-19 pandemic and the recovery strategies. With our members, we have reviewed the proposed EU Social Economy Action Plan in light of the key messages of our own position paper.
- Read ERGO Network’s full response to the EU Social Economy Action Plan here!
Regrettably, there is only one mention of Europe’s Roma in the Action Plan, namely in the Introduction, with no other references to ethnic background, minorities, or racialised communities in the rest of the document. For social economy enterprises to actually support vulnerable groups such as the Roma, clear indicators that monitor Roma participation in social economy initiatives are needed. Additionally, social economy actors must be mindful of deeply rooted discrimination and antigypsyism and make conscious efforts to combat any such tendencies.
ERGO Network salutes proposals to better include social economy business models in entrepreneurship educational curricula, and the commitment to support the development of social impact measurement and management, including involving stakeholders in the development of assessment methodologies. However, we are disappointed to see that the contribution of social economy to reducing poverty and social exclusion is insufficiently mentioned, while failing to create fruitful synergies with the EU Roma Strategic Framework, as well as with the European Pillar of Social Rights in a comprehensive way.
While we welcome that developing policy and legal frameworks is one of the explicit objectives of the Action Plan, we would have liked to see the key aspect of the social and societal goals more strongly emphasised, as well as an explicit commitment to embed a partnership approach involving key stakeholders, including Roma communities and their civil society representatives.
ERGO Network appreciates that the Action Plan highlights the added value that social economy enterprises bring to local communities, stressing their strong local roots and the impetus to serve the communities where they are based. However, the role and potential of these communities is insufficiently taken into account in the document. Social economy initiatives must enshrine a broad bottom-up approach, based on real community needs and grassroot input, giving the Roma a voice in the process.
While the Action Plan clearly spells out the need for business development support for social enterprises, disappointingly nothing is said about supporting Roma social entrepreneurs. This is a glaring missed opportunity to tap into the enormous potential and competences that the Roma bring to the table. More targeted support is needed to build the capacity of the Roma, and the existence and potential of social enterprises need to be better promoted in Roma communities.
We equally welcome that the Action Plan acknowledges the key role of public financial support for social enterprises, as well as the commitment to increase the level of support in the next programming period. However, the document doesn’t take into account the fact that marginalised and racialised communities face additional barriers in accessing funding, nor does it put forward proposals to address them.
Social economy offers great potential to address Roma poverty, employment, health, education, accommodation, nutrition, and to keep alive Roma culture and crafts. ERGO Network expresses its hope that the gaps identified above will be remedied through implementation and stands ready to support these efforts, at both the EU and the national level.
For more information about our work on Social Economy, please contact Amana Ferro (email@example.com), Senior Policy Adviser with the ERGO Network staff team.