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The European Commissioner for Employment and Social Rights, Nicolas Schmit, received the award yesterday at a gala event in the Kursaal in San Sebastian.

The event was attended by the Basque Prime Minister Iñigo Urkullu and representatives of European governments.


The European Commissioner for Employment and Social Rights, Nicolas Schmit, representing the European Commission, received the Denon Artean Award yesterday at a ceremony held at the Kursaal Palace in Donostia, from the President of the Higher Council of Basque Cooperatives, Kooperatiben Kontseilua, Patxi Olabarria.

The Basque Prime Minister Iñigo Urkullu and representatives of European governments and institutions attended the event, which was also attended by a large number of co-operative enterprises, European authorities, representatives of autonomous communities and the most important national and European co-operative and social economy organisations.

In fact, the Denon Artean, in its 2023 edition, was held in the context of the ‘European Social Economy Conference: People, Planet, Action’, organised by the Ministry of Employment and Social Economy within the framework of the Spanish Presidency of the Council of the European Union. This, together with the appointment of Donostia / San Sebastián as capital of the social economy 2023, has been highlighted by the president of Kooperatiben Kontseilua. “Both initiatives will enable the Basque social economy, and the cooperative movement in particular, to give visibility to a business model that puts people at the centre and represents another way of understanding the economy and business. It is a different way of producing, undertaking, managing and consuming, of promoting the social economy as an alternative to the traditional economy”, he stressed.

The Basque co-operative movement has awarded the Denon Artean to the European Commission “for leading the change towards a better Europe thanks to the contribution it has made to improving the social economy and co-operatives.

In his speech, Patxi Olabarria listed some of the actions carried out by the European Commission. From the European Social Economy Action Plan, “an ambitious and unprecedented agenda with more than 60 actions and an implementation horizon of 2030, which responds to the demands of the sector”, adopted in 2021, to the latest Strategic Plan for the development of the Social Economy. “A programme that sets in motion a transition path for cooperatives and social economy enterprises to the ecological and digital transitions and to increase their competitiveness in Europe”, said the President of Kooperatiben Kontseilua.

The ceremony ended with an exceptional performance of the Co-operative Symphony, which forms part of the Humanity At Music cultural project, which MONDRAGON has lent to Kooperatiben Kontseilua for this great occasion to transmit and celebrate the values of the co-operative world.

The Cooperative Symphony has been performed by an orchestra conducted by Fernando Velázquez, and the choirs Goikobalu Arrasateto Abesbatza, Iubilo Bilbao Abesbatza and Txorbela Otxotea will also take part.


The Denon Artean is the award that recognises the work of people and institutions in favour of cooperativism, a different, more social model of enterprise, which distributes wealth better, is fairer and more equitable, and which works in the search for social transformation, thereby improving society as a whole. In 2018 the first edition of the prize was awarded posthumously to José María Arizmendiarrieta, and in 2021 it was awarded to the International Co-operative Alliance (ICA).

As a unique entity in the national, European and global co-operative world due to its public-private nature, the Higher Council of Co-operatives of the Basque Country represents the entire Basque co-operative movement at this event.

Kooperatiben Kontseilua was created 40 years ago due to the importance of the Basque co-operative fabric in the Basque business network. And on the occasion of the Denon Artean it is once again demonstrating the strength of Basque co-operative enterprises to European governments and institutions, regional governments, the OECD, the ILO and Social Economy business leaders from all corners of Europe.

Photo album of the event: Denon Artean 2023.