European Commission’s Action Plan for Social Economy – What’s in it for Europe’s Roma?

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 (a.ferro@ergonetwork.org), Senior Policy Adviser with the ERGO Network staff team.

Response to consultation on Social Economy Action Plan

ERGO Network responds to the European Commission public consultation on the Social Economy Action Plan

The European Commission launched a public consultation seeking stakeholder feedback on the proposed Roadmap for an Action Plan for Social Economy, due to be released shortly. ERGO Network contributed its perspective, building on our 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, and on our online conference Social Economy and Roma Inclusion in times of Covid-19, co-organised in November 2020 with Social Economy Europe and the European Parliament Social Economy Intergroup.

ERGO Network welcomes the strong recognition given in the Roadmap to the key role of social economy in putting people first and achieving a positive impact in local communities, in tackling growing inequalities and the social impact of the pandemic, and in building inclusive growth. The Roadmap highlights the potential of the sector to positively contribute to job creation and service provision, including social services, through innovative bottom-up initiatives to reach the most vulnerable, as well as to promote participatory, democratic governance models in the workplace.

We further salute the commitment to provide the necessary legal framework and enabling eco-systems for social economy to reach its objectives, including through enhancing its visibility and recognition, improving access to tailored private and public funding, as well as business support, fostering social entrepreneurship (in particular for young people), and other measures. We appreciate the focus on strengthening social economy in non-EU countries, in particular enlargement and neighbourhood countries.

However, we make a strong argument that vulnerable groups such as the Roma must be explicitly included in the Action Plan as key target beneficiaries of social economy interventions. Experience shows that, if Roma inclusion is not spelled out as an objective, mainstream approaches leave them behind. Furthermore, the Roma must be equally recognised as drivers of change, by being empowered to become social entrepreneurs themselves. The existence and potential of social enterprises need to be better promoted and supported in Roma communities.

Non-minority social economy actors must be mindful of deeply-rooted discrimination & antigypsyism, and make conscious efforts to combat any such tendencies. It is essential that non-Roma-led social enterprises work alongside Roma people and Roma organisations, to make full use of the pool of skills and talents already present in the communities. The Action Plan equally needs to acknowledge that marginalised communities face huge barriers in accessing funding from mainstream financial providers.

Last but not least, the Action Plan must be rooted in fruitful synergies with other EU policy and funding frameworks, including the EU Roma Strategic Framework. Social economy must be placed at the heart of Covid-19 intervention and recovery packages and funds, with an explicit targeting of vulnerable groups such as the Roma, who were hit hardest by the pandemic. The partnership principle needs to be embedded, involving key stakeholders, including Roma communities and their civil society representatives, enshrining a bottom-up approach, based on real community needs and grassroot input.

  • Read our full response to the consultation here!

For more information about ERGO Network’s work on social economy, please contact Amana Ferro, Senior Policy Adviser in the ERGO Network Brussels team.

Draft Recovery and Resilience Plan of Bulgaria

Draft Recovery and Resilience Plan of the Republic of Bulgaria

Integro Association held a special seminar to discuss the draft Recovery and Resilience Plan (RRP) with a wide range of representatives of Roma communities, Community Action Groups, municipal officials and local authorities who participate in the ROMACT Program of the European Commission and the Council of Europe.

The seminar made the following recommendations for the draft RRP of Bulgaria:

  1. The Plan needs to be developed in a more detailed way, setting specific goals and activities to achieve concrete results. It is also necessary to develop a more detailed justification of the defined objectives and measures and a system of clear and measurable indicators that would allow accurate reporting of the results achieved and the impacts of the measures taken. The Plan must, in particular, identify potential beneficiaries and users of resources under the various programmes and projects.
  2. The scope of individuals and families in disadvantaged situations must include vulnerable ethnic groups, which are very much affected by the Covid-19 crisis, while at the same time being excluded from measures taken to mitigate the effects of the crisis. It is necessary to plan specific measures to address the problems of these groups especially in small settlements, as so far they are neither included in the developed Operational Programs nor in the current Recovery and Resilience Plan (RRP).
  3. When planning energy efficiency measures, it is necessary to focus primarily on the state of buildings of energy-poor families; only for them public funding should be 100% of the grant. At the same time, activities and resources should be provided for these families to switch to more environmentally friendly heating sources.
  4. Expand the scope and the allocated resources for social economy by planning a separate financial line aimed at starting and developing social enterprises to create sustainable employment for long-term unemployed Roma community members, for Roma women and youth. They should be involved especially in environmental and nature protection spheres, as this type of activities will contribute to the objectives of the Green Deal. This will not only create sustainable employment for these groups, but will also improve their social inclusion and participation in the economic life of the country. The plan should envisage eligibility of municipalities and non-governmental organizations representing the most vulnerable Roma communities for the establishment of social economy enterprises.
  5. The Plan should provide a special line for financing the construction of a water supply system in neighborhoods where families with children and elderly people have been living for decades without access to clean drinking water. This should not be subject to the requirement for the number of population units, because access to drinking water is a basic human rights and constitutes one of the Sustainable Development Goals.

The full text of the position can be found here.

CLLD Meeting with EC desk officers

ERGO Network members meet EC desk officers to discuss Community-Led Local Development

On 11 March 2021, the European Roma Grassroots Organisations (ERGO) Network facilitated an online exchange meeting between its national members in Bulgaria, Czech Republic, and Romania, and their counterparts in the country desks of DG Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion (DG EMPL), DG Regional and Urban Policy (DG REGIO), and DG Agriculture and Rural Development (DG AGRI). Other European Commission staff responsible for related affairs was also in attendance.

The main topics covered in the meeting were:

  • Presentation of the main findings of the ERGO Network evaluation report of the CLLD cycle 2014-2020 in the three countries.
  • Updates on the possibility to introduce the Roma indicators in connecting the EU Roma Strategic Framework with EU funds.
  • Updates on how to best feed Roma realities and proposals (particularly with a view to the pandemic and recovery) in the current MFF negotiations.
  • Updates on the preparation of the National Roma Strategic Frameworks and National Recovery and Resilience Plans.

ERGO Network Director Jamen Gabriela Hrabaňová recalled that the organisation had been engaging extensively with CLLD processes since 2014, given the key role these processes can play in empowering Roma communities to identify bottom-up, beneficiary-led solutions that can tackle Roma poverty and social exclusion. Ms Hrabaňová pointed to the comprehensive synthesis report ERGO Network produced this year, evaluating the CLLD cycle for its entire duration (2014-2020) from a Roma perspective in three countries: Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, and Romania. She concluded by reassuring desk officers that ERGO Network national members and staff stood committed, willing, and able to provide all necessary input and feedback from their work directly at grassroots level, to make sure that the voice of the Roma was being heard.

  • Access here the ERGO Network publication “Community-Led Local Development (CLLD) for Roma inclusion. Evaluation Report 2014-2020”

Daniel Grebeldinger, ERGO Network CLLD expert (Nevo Parudimos, Romania) offered participants a comprehensive presentation of the main findings of the evaluation report. Roma involvement in CLLD and Local Action Group structures remained unequal, while more work needed to be done to build the capacity of all actors involved – local authorities, other LAG members, Roma NGOs, and community leaders – to engage with these processes. Cooperation with the Managing Authorities was not always smooth, and delays in launching the calls and the evaluations persisted, making planning and delivering projects a challenge. While more and more local development strategies had included Roma as priority beneficiaries, further efforts were needed to ensure that interventions genuinely reached the Roma and made a difference in their lives, with their full participation. The ERGO Network report presents concrete recommendations for the Managing Authorities, for the LAGs, and for Roma communities themselves.

The presentation was followed by an interactive Q&A session with the European Commission representatives in attendance, where specific points of the report were further elaborated upon. After the opening plenary, participants split into breakout rooms according to countries, in order to be able to exchange bilaterally in more detail about specific national concerns. ERGO Network will continue to engage closely with CLLD processes on the ground, with a view to ensure that Roma rights, inclusion, and participation were prioritized in this framework. The dialogue with the European Commission will continue through follow-up exchange meetings.

 

  • Access here the report of the online exchange meeting between ERGO Network national members and the European Commission (plenary only).

Social Economy and Roma Inclusion in times of Covid-19

Social Economy and Roma Inclusion in times of Covid-19

ERGO Network Annual Public Conference with Social Economy Europe and the European Parliament Intergroup on Social Economy

This past 17 November, ERGO Network organised its annual public event, together with Social Economy Europe and the European Parliament Intergroup on Social Economy. This year’s conference, which took place online, was dedicated to exploring the key potential of the social and solidarity economy to positively contribute to Roma equality, inclusion and participation, particularly in a pandemic and post-pandemic context. 

Europe is facing an unprecedented social and economic crisis, brought about by the devastating effects of the coronavirus pandemic. Many Europeans have lost their incomes, their homes, their security, and even their loved ones, but Roma communities throughout the continent have been particularly hard hit. Because of its explicit objective to contribute to better social and economic inclusion and improved societal outcomes, particularly for vulnerable groups, social economy can play a key role in ensuring equal eights and wellbeing for Roma communities in the recovery process in different countries.

The online conference served as the formal launch of ERGO Network’s position paper “The role of Social Economy in supporting Roma social and economic inclusion in the Covid-19 pandemic and recovery”, rooted in an extensive data collection exercise across ERGO Network’s national membership. The Key Messages of the paper, presented at the conference, are:

  1. Legislative framework prioritising social goals over financial gain and promoting sustainability
  2. Meaningful partnerships supporting Roma participation and ownership
  3. The Roma named explicitly as target group for social economy interventions
  4. Fostering Roma social entrepreneurship through awareness and training
  5. Access to stable, dedicated, transparent funding
  6. An economy based on solidarity that works for all, including for Roma

The event equally aimed to showcase concrete good practices of Roma- and Traveller-led social enterprises on the ground, as well as to put forward positive ways to ensure that the potential of social economy to support Roma inclusion is placed at the heart of recovery packages and the upcoming Action Plan on Social Economy and Social Innovation, in full alignment with the recently released EU Roma Strategic Framework.

The event was very well attended with almost 100 participants, and it brought together ERGO Network and Social Economy Europe national members from the grassroots level in many European countries, as well as other national practitioners, European civil society organisations, EU policy-makers from the European Parliament and the European Commission, and other stakeholders.

If you attended this event, or watched the recording, don’t forget to let us know what you thought about it by filling in this Evaluation Form. Thank you!

See more:
Agenda of the event

Full recording of the Facebook livestream

ERGO Network position paper

Conference Report

Photo album

 

For more information about this event, or about ERGO Network’s work on social economy, please don’t hesitate to contact us: a.ferro@ergonetwork.org

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Tel: +32 (0)2 8931049

info@ergonetwork.org

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