In the last weeks, the European Parliament hosted hearings for the designated Commissioners as part of the nomination process. The first step of this process was the vote on the President of the Commission, designated by Member States, and as a result Ursula von der Leyen was elected by the Parliament last summer. Then, the Member States had each to nominate Commissioners, and President-elect von der Leyen attributed a more or less comprehensive portfolio to each one of them. We are now in the last stretch of this process with the hearings in front of the specialised Committees, where the Parliament can veto some candidates.
Three Commissioners-designate had social economy in their portfolio: Nicolas Schmit, the Commissioner-Designate for Jobs, Sylvie Goulard the Commissioner Designate for Internal Market and Valdis Dombrovskis, the Vice-President designated for an Economy that works for people. When answering questions, the Commissioners-designate addressed one or several important topics for the sector such as the inclusion of the SDGs and the European Pillars of Social Rights in the European Semester, the digitalization challenge, unemployment, skills gap and the need for appropriate training for a more inclusive Europe.
The Commissioner-designate for Jobs, Nicolas Schmit, was the most interesting from a social economy perspective. As the former Minister of Labour, Employment and Immigration in Luxembourg and a former Member of the European Parliament, he was already aware of the challenges of the Social Economy sector. Therefore, for the next five years Nicolas Schmit decided to boost employment to promote a well-skilled workforce responsive to the digital and climate transition ahead (1) and to ensure social rights for all placing social inclusion at the center of his priorities (2) as his two main goals. All along his hearing, he emphasized the importance of the social aspects in the creation of jobs beyond the economic ones and the key role of social economy in the provision of quality services, inclusive economic and social progress. He proposed to tackle the skills gap that exists in the Social Economy sector by investing more in upskilling and reskilling from the ESF+ and strengthening the skills agenda. He emphasized the fact that employment policies should be more focused on the most vulnerable as it is crucial to integrate the most excluded in the labour market and to have equal opportunities for everybody. Again, he stressed the importance of a reinforced ESF + to achieve this goal as well as on the Corporate Social Responsibility. He also proposed to organise a new Social Business Conference, bringing all the actors together and enact a plan to promote Social Economy in relation to the next big challenges. The goal would not to harmonize Social Economy throughout Europe but to create a level plain field for the Social economy sector. ENSIE welcomes his commitment to pursue a more social and inclusive Europe hands in hands with the Social Economy Sector. Nicolas Schmit proposals to reinforce the ESF+ are more than welcome and ENSIE supports this proposal during the MFF debates. also take note of his proposal to organize a new Social Business Conference, while hoping that it will lead to a concrete and comprehensive European Action Plan for Social Economy.
During Sylvie Goulard’s hearings – the former Commissioner Designate for internal market- Pierre Karleskind, a French MEP from Renew, launched the debate on Social Economy by asking how she will support social economy companies to adapt public procurement for those companies, reduce legal differences between them in the various Member States. In her answer, Sylvie Goulard stressed the importance of the varied organizations composing the sector and made interesting proposals for its funding. Her messages in Parliament did not convince the MEPs who voted against her. To this day, the situation regarding this portfolio is still unclear, and ENSIE can only hope that Social Economy and Work Integration Social Enterprises will become a priority in the Internal Market Agenda.
The third interesting hearing was Valdis Dombrovskis, designated vice-president for Economy that works for people. From a Social Economy perspective his hearing was overall disappointing as he focused more on EU’s economic interests internationally and boosting green finance and left aside the social aspects of those measures. He nonetheless declared being open to the integration of the SDGs and the EPSRs in the European Semester, and to expand the Social scoreboard.
If Nicolas Schmit hearing was highly satisfying for ENSIE, the others were lacking on social economy. If ENSIE was pleased by the place given to Social Economy in the hearing of the Commissioner-designate for Jobs, we regretted that the important role played by the sector was barely mentioned, if mentioned at all, in the other two. However, we will have to wait for the nomination and the appointment of a substitute for Sylvie Goulard as well as to see the balance of powers inside the new Commission before making a definite assessment.
ENSIE, is calling the next Commission to commit for a positive framework for WISEs and improve social inclusion through the review of EU concerned legislation, the concrete implementation of the SDGs and EPSRs with the financial support of the ESF+ and the use of more sustainable public procurement. You can read more on our proposals in our Memorandum.