The video interview complements the interview given by Jean-Marc Borello to Décideurs magazine.
Decision makers. What can France offer the European Union in terms of the social economy and solidarity economy (ESS)?
Jean-Marc Borello. France is a pioneer country and SSE is in an important position as it provides 10% of our GDP and 14% of our paid employment. This type of economy took hold in France, and it is linked to a legacy of cooperatives, mutual aid, and the activities of figures such as Charles Gide (uncle of the famous writer André Gide, editor’s note) in the 19th century. However, the ESS has entered the 21st century with full force thanks to measures such as the Hamon law, which in particular created the status of the Social Solidarity Company (ESUS), as well as the more recent Covenant law. The advantage of this is that it integrates the traditional economy and the SSE and brings everything together in the form of an influential business. Note also the presence in France of the movement of social entrepreneurs, which binds the territory and influences habits.
What are the main measures to be taken at Community level?
It would be appropriate to develop an association charter at the level of the European Union. To take a simple example: Groupe SOS wishes to set up a local subsidiary in a member state; it takes one to two years. In other countries, such as Uganda or Morocco, it happens much faster. In addition to the legal status, it seems important to create a common coordinate system that would make it possible to determine the actions of the impact, as well as the means to support them. A kind of grid created for Europe and compiled by a group of companies, researchers and associations. We need to seriously work on this topic. In any case, Europe could become the global epicenter of the SSE.
“It would be expedient to create a pan-European charter for the association”
Since France has experience in this area, to what extent can it play a leading role?
He can use the rotating presidency to advance his agenda, especially since one of the priorities for the coming months is a social Europe. Olivia Grégoire, Secretary of State for Social Solidarity and a Responsible Economy, also welcomed her European counterparts to Paris on 17 February to develop an action plan.
Are you optimistic about the creation of a real EEC across the EU?
Yes, it is quite. Often, the regulatory framework follows social movements and employee concerns. From now on, more than ever, they are waiting for more respectful companies that care about their influence. 25 years ago, when I spoke about SSE at HEC, I was greeted with caution. Today, young graduates are more active and aware than ever. At the top management level, companies have realized that it will be difficult for them to attract new employees, scare off shareholders, or even disappear after a few months in case of unfair practices.
How to distinguish the European SES from the American SES?
Americans prefer the philanthropic business approach, where those who are successful spend part of their income on operations with a strong social impact. This is how many high-end hospitals sound “non-profit.” In the EU, we have rather a social approach with a strong intervention of political power.
The French presidency intends to focus on the social aspect. What are the main projects?
The main one was planned before our rotating presidency: to establish a minimum wage in each member country, seven do not yet have it. Note that the idea is not to set the same minimum wage in all countries. The goal is to create a framework that will enable us to truly move towards a social Europe while improving the situation of posted workers. It was also one of the campaign promises of Emmanuel Macron in 2017.
The Russian invasion of Ukraine is a real humanitarian and social challenge. It is likely that in the coming months the EU will have to take in millions of refugees, and it will be up to it to coordinate the reception, distribution and, possibly, integration, so as not to leave the countries of Europe from the East alone in the front line.
“For those who believe that a social Europe does not exist, I remind you that the recovery plan has saved millions of jobs”
The European Union is primarily perceived as an economic force. Do you think it is also a social force?
Yes. There is a persistent cliché to portray the EU as a technocratic behemoth obsessed with free trade. However, the facts show that, unfortunately in the shadows, he boasts of concrete social actions, such as the skills investment plan encouraged by Brussels, or the social rights fund. For those who believe that a social Europe does not exist, let me remind you that a recovery plan that will create and save millions of jobs was drawn up by the EU, a group order for vaccines, which also saved thousands of lives.
Let’s also mention Erasmus, which is the best anti-war weapon, the best weapon for creating a sense of belonging. The latter is very important, because working with a public initial flow avoids social problems. Moreover, by focusing on topics such as gender equality, the environment, the protection of minorities, etc., Europe targets young people whose social and community commitment is real but archipelagic.
What are your wishes for the development of a social Europe in the coming years?
At the beginning of the interview, I mentioned the creation of a common association charter and the development of community benchmarks to accelerate the creation of influential enterprises. I think we should also speed up the introduction of a carbon tax at the borders, the reindustrialization of the continent, and joint research. A strong social Europe must be developed through respect for the environment, scientific progress and industrial sovereignty.
Interview with Marie-Helene Brissot and Pierre-Étienne Laurenceau