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The assessment of the situation of Solidarity Economy in Europe should be carried out one day. Along with that, the construction of the European Network (RIPESS Europe) – that seeks to combine the efforts of regional and sectorial networks – should be explained. This is a complex, arduous and demanding task, since RIPESS Europe is still a young network, founded in Barcelona three years ago. This article does not intend to describe, but more modestly, it seeks to assess and evaluate the results of the RIPESS Europe General Assembly held near Paris on the 6th and 7th of June.

The Assembly was preceded by a meeting in Paris with the Foundation for the “Progress for Man” (FPH), which funds the activities of the European network. At this meeting, held in a relaxing atmosphere, the Foundation announced its intention to continue to work with the Network. Furthermore, the FPH suggested that RIPESS Europe should create links with other networks and similar organizations working in its field. Moreover, RIPESS Europe should find its role and position in Europe and should be able to develop more theoretical and strategic contents. A whole work program.

As it is now, the European Network can be considered as a network of networks, organizations and individuals, having members in Germany, Belgium, Catalonia, Spain, France and some of its regions, Luxembourg, Hungary, Italy, Portugal and Romania, as well as some sectorial “Territorial Pacts”, Urgenci and Solidarius Italy. This time the meeting was enriched by the presence of representatives from Greece and Poland. In the evening an interesting gathering took place, where the Greek partners put an accent on the dynamic situation going on in Greece. Here solidarity economy cooperatives are facing the turbulent economic, social and political circumstances that occur nowadays. Along with that, the representative of the Portuguese network ANIMAR was rather optimistic about the potentials for the development of the solidarity economy movement, that in his country is linked to local development.

What were the main agreements achieved in the discussions and in the work carried out in the general assembly?

– First of all, the decision has been to merge the two existing working groups (State of Art and Identity and Perimeter) in a joint action-program whose objective is to conduct an overview of the Solidarity Economy initiatives in Europe, especially within the Countries where the network is not represented (Anglophone Countries, Scandinavian, Slavic, etc.). Consequently, it was agreed that the next meeting of the Coordinating Committee will be held in Greece in September 2014 and the further one in November in Zaragoza.

– Furthermore, the Coordinating Committee which is the elected facilitating body between the Assemblies was confirmed, and the budget approved. Among the documents prepared by the Catalan network were the diagnosis and proposals, the current diagnosis and the suggestions for improvement. Along with that, the creation of an Advisory Council was discussed, whose function is to form the theoretical heritage of the European network, to help the definition of the strategic guidelines and to meet the demands of the partners of the European network itself. This Advisory Council will be launched in the coming months and five members have already signed up for it. Delivering extensive written documentation allowed for greater transparency and rigor in the decision-making.

Up to now the Coordination Committee of the network has been operational, establishing meetings every three or four months in different cities. This gives the chance to set up a dialogue with local networks. Furthermore, it has been active in the international scene by going to the intercontinental congress held in Manila. It was part of the advisory board of International Organizations (ILO, FAO, ..) and it took part to the meeting of the World Social Forum in Tunisia. Newsletters are sent to 3,000 people and the organizational model has been changed: until recently it had an executive secretary, now it is working through working groups involving the members more closely together.

On the weak side, in the past the Coordinating Committee has worked too much in a closed circle and did not take a position against the fact that the European authorities are increasingly influenced by neoliberal policies. It has not yet been in coordination with other European networks and social movements working on similar topics. Moreover, it has not been able to involve some other European countries. Difficulties were given by the absence, up to now, of statewide networks (such the German and the Italian ones).

In sum, this Assembly has shown how the European network – after a phase of enthusiasm at its foundation – is now undergoing a phase of complex organizational work, as well as demanding strategic challenges. In the next period, it will have to strengthen its identity as a European network, acquiring more sense in the eyes of those who think that it is necessary, useful and urgent to build a transnational political culture of solidarity economy.