During the negotiations between European Parliament, Council and Commission concerning the European Social Fund, we achieved a double success, strenghthening the social and solidarity economy.
The term “social and solidarity economy” is now included into a European legislative text for the first time. Furthermore, the framework regulation on the European Social Fund opens the door for the support of the social and solidarity economy. The already negotiated part of the act regulating the next ESF-period from 2014 to 2020 explicitly mentions “social and solidarity economy” as a possible area eligible for funding. Originating from a green party amendment, the term “social and solidarity economy” became lateron common across all political groups. The now achieved compromise says in a legally binding article: „(v) Promoting social entrepreneurship and vocational integration in social enterprises and the social and solidarity economy in order to facilitate access to employment;“. An explanatory recital also mentions social enterprises on an equal footing with public administrations, private companies and NGOs as potential funding recipients: „The ESF may be used to enhance access to affordable, sustainable and high quality services of general interest, in particular in the fields of health care, employment and training services, services for the homeless, out of school care, childcare and long-term care services. Services supported can be public, private and/or community-based, delivered by different types of providers (public administrations, private companies, social enterprises, non-governmental organisations)”.
The future recipients of ESF funding however will be chosen by the regional governments after consultation with the European Commission. As centralism usually turns out not to be a good advisor for awarding subsidies, this rule is appropriate. In the new ESF-act that is now to be voted on, only loose rules for the decentralised decisions are given. Because of that it is now time to anchor the social and solidarity economy in the “operational programs” of the regions. These decisions must be made on federal state level. In general, the drafting of the new programs has progressed very far. The EU conditions are set, now it is high time for lobbying. Unfortunately, that was not recognized everywhere, as the regional governments are still about to negotiate their programs on the basis of the Commission draft for a framework regulation. The final ESF act however will not be published until the end of the negotiations. Good luck!