News from the September GECES meeting
On September 10, EVPA participated in the second GECES (the European Commission’s Expert Group on Social Economy and Social Enterprises) meeting of the year, taking part in discussions on essential topics for EVPA members: the EU Action Plan for Social Economy, the new Industrial Forum, the Pact for Skills and State Aid in the area of access to finance to support social enterprises.
The EU Action Plan for Social Economy
The EU Action Plan for Social Economy will be published by the European Commission by the end of December. EVPA actively engaged on the Roadmap for the European Action Plan for Social Economy, and provided our members’ ideas in the EU consultation on the Roadmap. There were more than 130 contributions to the consultation, coming from 25 countries out of which 21 EU member states, which confirmed the need for access to finance and to boost social innovation.
Read more on the priorities that the future plan should include in EVPA’s new Policy Position Paper.
Co-designing innovative solutions through the new Industrial Forum
This year the EU Commission updated the industrial strategy to strengthen Europe’s economy at global level and to better reflect 14 identified priorities, such as green and digital transition. The new industrial strategy for Europe announced the creation of an Industrial Forum as a new, inclusive and open mechanism for co-designing solutions with stakeholders. The Forum includes a wide array of stakeholders, including industry - SMEs and big companies, Member States, NGOs, research institutions and social partners representing different industrial ecosystems. It aims to identify cross-border and cross-ecosystem investment needs and cooperation opportunities, tapping into the expertise of all its members.
New Focus Group on the Pact for Skills
The European Pact for Skills aims to mobilise investment flowing into upskilling and reskilling the European working-age population, engage all stakeholders, and facilitate cooperation in the skills and education sector. Many organisations across Europe support this as signatories of the Charter for the Pact for Skills. The next step in the implementation of the Pact for Skills is to create a focus group based on the Pact Charter with proximity and social economy stakeholders, which will agree on the skills needs for the ecosystem and identify target commitments for the Pact.
The work of the focus group will kick off in October 2021, with the final goal of developing structured partnerships by mid-2022.
Read more on the principles of the Pact for Skills and the EU Funding Opportunities supporting it in the last EVPA Policy brief.
State Aid, Social Economy and Access to Finance
Social enterprises are often in a different situation to other companies when it comes to accessing funding. “For social enterprises, the return perspectives are generally lower and the functioning of the social economy is still obscure for many investors. Attracting private capital may therefore be more challenging for many of these enterprises. Moreover, due to their business models, social enterprises usually face additional burdens that can be costly to put in place, namely the need to learn about and set up tools and methods for measuring their social impact.” 
The European Commission has initiated a preliminary reflection with the GECES, in the framework of the upcoming European Social Economy Action Plan, on the usefulness and rationale of potential additional flexibility in the risk finance State aid rules, specifically for social enterprises.
During the meeting, the European Commission gathered the views of stakeholders from GECES by having in-depth discussions on the market failure concerning the availability of finance for social enterprises, as well as on the potential modification of either Article 22 and/or Article 21 of the GBER (General Block Exemption Regulation).
The European Commission’s Expert Group on Social Economy and Social Enterprises (GECES) was set up in 2011 and is consulted by the European Commission on the development, set up and implementation of all the actions mentioned in the Social Business Initiative (SBI) and the further development of social entrepreneurship and social economy. EVPA is an active stakeholder of the GECES since 2013, voicing the concerns of its members directly to the European Commission and strengthening, together with other experts, the social impact investment ecosystem.
More about the group and their topics of discussion here.
 Social economy and State aid for access to finance - Consultation paper for the GECES