Brussels Briefing: A huge opportunity to strengthen social economy ecosystems

What's happening inside the Brussels bubble when it comes to the social economy? Euclid Network policy lead Toby Gazeley deciphers the latest news from the EU capital and tells us what to look out for next.

What's been happening in Brussels since my last update?

While the city is uncharacteristically quiet and sleepy during August, September and October return with a vengeance each year, and 2023 is no different. Among the many exciting events, we've seen three key social economy milestones since the summer break – some appearing sooner than might have been expected.


EC Recommendation is formally agreed: a milestone for action at national level

The biggest and most recent development is the adoption of the European Commission’s Recommendation to the European Council on Social Economy Framework Conditions. This was proposed earlier this year; its formal adoption is a real milestone for the social economy and it took just four months to come to an agreement. But what does it mean?

Behind the jargon and references to various European institutions, this document is a political commitment by the EU’s member states to improve the legal, regulatory and fiscal frameworks in which social economy organisations operate, including social enterprises. This includes looking at things like legal forms and statuses, taxation and access to finance. This is not the EU embarking on another action plan at the European level but rather national governments agreeing to develop and implement strategies to support the development of national and local ecosystems with responsibility for these plans designated to specific government departments and agencies. This is a huge opportunity to strengthen ecosystems across Europe. Now is the time for all of us to make use of this Council Recommendation to make sure the voices of intermediaries, networks and social economy enterprises are heard in shaping the development and implementation of these strategies, in order to build more social and inclusive ecosystems for social entrepreneurship. This Recommendation will be high on the agenda at this week’s Spanish Presidency’s event on Social Economy in San Sebastian.

This is a political commitment by EU member states to improve the legal, regulatory and fiscal frameworks in which social economy organisations operate


UK re-joins Horizon Europe: a boost for research and innovation partnerships

It’s not just the EU’s member states who’ve been busy since the summer. The UK has also decided to re-enter the Horizon Europe programme, the EU’s flagship research and innovation scheme. As part of the post-Brexit relationship with the EU, the UK left Horizon Europe but has now decided to return. This means social economy organisations and universities based in the UK can once again participate in EU-funded international research projects. This is good for UK organisations, but also for those within the EU looking to team up with UK-based partners. The timing couldn’t be better – the European Commission has just published a call for applications under Horizon Europe calling for projects exploring the role of the social economy in addressing social exclusion, providing quality jobs and greater sustainability.

The creation of a new European legal form is no small feat


European Cross-Border Association status: important advantages for non-profits

Last but not least, the final proposal for the European Cross-Border Association (ECBA) status has been reached! The final discussions on its adoption are now taking place in the European Parliament and Council before it becomes a legal form that associations across Europe will be able to adopt wherever they operate. This is a new legal status that will be available across the European Union for non-profit associations operating across borders. The creation of a new European legal form is no small feat and it should allow for more associations to benefit from the freedoms of the EU’s single market as well as guaranteeing rights to freedom of association and expression across Europe.


  • Toby Gazeley is the Brussels-based policy lead at Euclid Network.

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