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European Commission

Press release

Brussels, 15 January 2014

Major European event to shape the future for social businesses

The social economy is an important pillar of the European economy, representing some 10% of GDP. More than 11 million workers or 4.5% of the active EU population are employed in the social economy. One in every four new businesses set up each year is a social business, rising to one in three in France, Finland and Belgium.

Social entrepreneurs aim to have an impact on society rather than only generating profits for owners and shareholders. For example, they provide jobs for disadvantaged groups, promoting their social inclusion and increasing solidarity in the economy. But they face enormous challenges and an uneven playing field.

That is why on 16 and 17 January 2014, the European Commission, the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) and the City of Strasbourg will host a large European interactive event on social entrepreneurship and the social economy. This two-day event will use a collaborative, participatory approach. The participants themselves will drive the issues to be debated and identify the way forward for the social entrepreneurship sector.

Commissioner for Internal Market and Services Michel Barnier said: "The great battle today is for growth and employment. I am convinced that there is no lasting economic performance without social cohesion. The social economy is part and parcel of the new growth model which we are creating, which is more inclusive and greener. By virtue of their vocation, social enterprises keep their ear to the ground and are in tune with social or environmental realities. They are innovative, they are dynamic and they create jobs. We have to do everything we can to create an ecosystem that encourages them to develop further. That is the objective of the Strasbourg conference."

European Commission Vice-President Antonio Tajani, Commissioner for Industry and Entrepreneurship, said: "Social businesses help the EU create a highly competitive social market economy and are engines for sustainable growth. During the crisis they proved their worth by showing strong resilience. We now need them more than ever for their job creating ability."

Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion, László Andor said: "Social enterprises provide hundreds of successful examples how Europe can improve its business model, with more focus on improving people's well-being and less on maximising financial gain. The social economy can create quality jobs even in difficult economic circumstances and clearly deserves EU support to grow and spread."

President of the European Economic and Social Committee, Henri Malosse said: "Europe can no longer permit itself to miss the target. Its core business is – should be – active solidarity and strong common policies, namely in the fields of industry, energy and entrepreneurship, especially social entrepreneurship".

Confirmed speakers include Martin Schulz, President of the European Parliament, Antonis Samaras, Prime Minister of Greece and Henri Malosse, President of the European Economic and Social Committee.

Three European Commissioners - Vice-president Antonio Tajani and Commissioners Michel Barnier and László Andor - will enter into live discussions with social entrepreneurs.

Participants include social entrepreneurs, academics, policy makers, financing providers, social activists and many more.

The objectives of the event are to:

  • Take stock of the achievements and implementation of the Social Business Initiative of October 2011 (see IP/11/1238 and MEMO/11/735)

  • Identify future priorities for action

  • Engage stakeholders in an innovative and participative environment to shape the European agenda for the next 3-5 years

  • Strengthen stakeholder networks to support the emergence and scaling-up of initiatives and best practices

  • Create more ownership and awareness among institutional actors.


In 2011, in the context of the EU 2020 strategy, the EU presented the Social Business Initiative, an action plan to enhance the framework for social entrepreneurship by improving access to finance, increasing the visibility of the sector and raising awareness of the needs of social entrepreneurs among policy makers. In order to continue these efforts, the Strasbourg event will identify new priorities for the future.

More information:

See also MEMO/14/11

Programme and registration:

A list of participants can be found at:

The event will be webstreamed:

Erasme room (both days)

Schweitzer room (16 January):

Social economySocial innovation

Contacts :

Chantal Hughes (+32 2 296 44 50)

Carmel Dunne (+32 2 299 88 94)

Carlo Corazza (+32 2 295 17 52)

Jonathan Todd (+32 2 299 41 07)

For the public: Europe Direct by phone 00 800 6 7 8 9 10 11 or by e­mail

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