Save the date : November 9th, 2017 at the European parliament in Brussels

Cohesion Policy/Inequalities

Concept note

The promotion of economic, social and territorial cohesion – and therewith reduction of disparities in the development of European regions and of inequalities among their inhabitants – figures among the main objectives of the European Union (see art. 174-178 TFEU). The social dimension of cohesion policy has been continuously reinforced over the years. The European Social Fund (ESF) in particular plays a major role in fighting inequalities and discrimination, but also in building capacities of civil society and citizens to find ways out of social exclusion and unemployment and reinforce solidarity in and between territories. The strengthening of these elements, a part of which has now been mainstreamed also to other instruments of cohesion policy such as the ERDF, went hand in hand with the introduction of tools such as Community-Led Local Development (CLLD) which allow for a closer involvement of citizens in programming and implementation of the funds and cohesion policy as such.

The social and solidarity economy with its capacity to detect the real needs, but also potential of people, to mobilise and empower citizens as well as to create solidarity networks between them has always been an important partner. In recent years, European Cohesion Policy and, more specifically, the European Structural and Investment Funds, have contributed to a significant extent to the development of the social and solidarity economy at local, regional and national level.

Support and outcome were not only limited to grants helping to set-up, scale-up or replicate a broad range of initiatives.

Impressive results could also be achieved in terms of:

  • Capacity-building for social and solidarity economy initiatives and public authorities;

  • Creation of employment opportunities for disadvantaged groups and victims of inequalities;

  • Creation or strengthening of partnerships between public authorities, social and solidarity economy and other players;

  • Development, at local, regional and national level, of broader strategies and policies promoting the social and solidarity economy and local economic, social and cultural development more in general

  • (Transnational) cooperation between managing authorities/cities and regions (an example are the thematic ESF networks etc.)

  • (Transnational) Networking between social economy organisations (including social franchising)

Initiatives allow(ed) to reach out to the citizens and also disadvantaged ones directly, to mobilise and involve them, to strengthen local communities and make them feel the owner of developed strategies and initiatives.

More than ever, all this seems currently to be questioned and at risk. For some, the European Structural Funds are part of an “old” policy and should be replaced by new, market-based financial instruments. Others consider a renationalisation of funds more effective than a territorial approach…, …

This conference would like to discuss past and future of Cohesion policy, ESIF and their contribution to the fight against inequalities, from the specific point of view of social and solidarity economy, including WISEs, and public authorities:

  • How to better root social and solidarity economy in cohesion policy in order to fully tap on its potential (investment priorities etc.) and how to encourage Member States to make use of such provisions?

  • Should support to the SSE be sector-specific (e.g. focusing on services of general interest or others)?

  • How to raise awareness among social economy enterprises in order to help them getting direct access to ESIF funds – also within the framework of other investment priorities – and how to provide concrete advice to social and solidarity economy and social enterprises on how to access ESIF?

  • Building on past and current experiences of partnership between the SSE and cities/regions: How should this cooperation be anchored and promoted in legislation on the post-2020 period?

  • In light of recent discussions on the use of the European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI) in combination with the European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF): Can market-based instruments such as EFSI deliver when it comes to fighting inequalities and social exclusion in partnership with citizens? Under which conditions?


  • Berlin (Pfefferwerk Foundation or other)/other Proposals GUE?

  • Catalunya region (ES)

  • Region Örebro county/Region Östergötland (SE)

  • Hotel Belvue (Mission locale de Molenbeek), Brussels (BE)

  • Bourgogne Franche-Comté (FR) or ESS initiative from Franche-Comté

  • Tuscany region (IT)

  • SSE initiative from Greece

  • CEPES (ES)


  • Groupe Terre asbl (Les casiers solidaires)