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ICA Europe Bulletin







ICA European Council Meeting

The 13 members of the ICA European Board, as elected last October in Paris, met on 23-24 February 1999 in Bilbao, Spain. Javier Salaberría, President of the Confederación de Cooperativas de Euskadi (CCE) and member of the European Council (EC) hosted the meeting. Members of the European Council were received by the President of the Basque Government, which reflects the recognition and support of the Government to the co-operative movement. A most interesting visit to Mondragon was organised for the group. If you are interested in the success story of the Basque workers' co-operative movement consult their Web page: http://www.mondragon.mcc.es

The three major issues discussed at the meeting were the Membership Strategy, the Development Strategy for Central and Eastern European Countries (CEEC) and the Organisational Review of ICA, a paper prepared by Edgar Parnell. The Council also adopted the Annual work plan and budget for Europe.

Membership Strategy

A survey on membership, undertaken last year, was answered by one third of European member organisations. In the replies members expressed their expectation vis-à-vis ICA and pointed out some priority areas. The aim of this exercise was to bring in line the needs of members with the possibilities of ICA Europe. The analysis showed that members want ICA to focus on fewer issues but with more intensity.

In the discussion the former priorities were reviewed and two of them were confirmed:

Two further areas were identified as being of major importance for ICA Europe to undertake, namely:

Development of co-operatives in CEEC

The European Development Task Force, which was set up last October, will be in charge of selecting concrete actions of development to assist co-operative organisations in Central and Eastern Europe. Some activities were proposed by members and were included in the Membership strategy paper prepared for the European Council meeting in February 1999. The Development Task Force will meet on 22 April to discuss long-term development programmes as well as activities scheduled for this year and make a proposal for the next European Council meeting.

Organisational Review of ICA

The ICA Board decided in April 1998 that, in view of the immense changes in the economic and political environment within which co-operatives are functioning, all aspects of ICA's operations should be reviewed. This would be with the objective of determining the form of organisation which is required to meet the needs of ICA members now, and into the new millennium. A study has been prepared followed by a wide-ranging process of consultation with members and staff. The result of this process will be a document to be presented to the ICA General Assembly in Quebec City, Canada, on 1 September 1999.

Members of the European Council discussed the paper thoroughly and took a firm position on several major issues raised in the review. This position was taken into consideration when drafting the Vision statement and Action plan for ICA, which was on the Agenda of the ICA Board meeting 12-13 April 1999.

Annual Work Plan

Major activities for this year include the preparation of a management training programme for co-operatives in CEECs as well as a seminar on lobbying techniques for countries which signed an accession agreement with the European Union.

Another important activity for 1999 will be to update the statistics on European co-operatives, which currently reflect the status on 31 December 1996. Member organisations will be requested to provide ICA with data related to 1998.

Visitors to the office

Raija Itkonen, International Manager of the Finnish Consumer Co-operative Association (FCCA), who was an ICA Board member and also a member of the European Council, will retire from the movement at the end of April 1999. Her successor will be Anne Santamäki. Together they visited the ICA head office 19 March in order to introduce Mrs. Santamäki and say farewell to Mrs. Itkonen.

Staff news

Martina Donahower joined the Regional Office for Europe on 1 January 1999 as a part-time administrative assistant. Besides administrative tasks, she will be responsible for producing the newsletter and European web site.

The Confédération Nationale du Crédit Mutuel prolonged the secondment of Luc Balourdet with ICA Europe for this year. He continues to be in charge of special projects. He was responsible for preparing the analysis of the membership survey for the European Council meeting in Bilbao.

New Publications

The final report of the ICA project "Statistics and Information on European Co-operatives" has been printed and sent to all member organisations in Europe. This is the first comprehensive survey on co-operatives covering 41 countries, all sectors and including data provided both by members and non-members of ICA. This project was co-financed by DG XXIII of the European Commission (the Directorate General of the European Commission in charge of "Enterprise Policy, Distributive Trades, Tourism and Co-operatives"). The publication has been priced at CHF 25.- for ICA members and CHF 40.- for non-members.

A special print of the "Rules for ICA Europe" has been prepared and is attached to this Bulletin.

For copies of both publications please contact: ICA DOCUMENTATION CENTRE, 15 route des Morillons, 1218 Grand-Saconnex, Geneva, Switzerland.

ICA Europe Web pages

ICA Europe's Web site has been updated to provide information on European activities and co-operative events. Please visit the site at: http://www.coop.org/europe

Upcoming events

The next Regional Assembly for Europe will be held in Bratislava, Slovakia on 4-5 October 2000. The topic of the Assembly will be decided at the European Council meeting in October 1999.

The ICA Board has scheduled to meet on 6-7 October while Specialised Bodies' meetings could be held before the Regional Assembly, on 2-3 October. A special issue of the Slovak Co-operative News will be distributed at the Quebec Congress, containing more details also on meeting facilities.

Secretaries of the ICA Specialised Bodies are kindly requested to inform ICA Europe about their intention to hold a meeting in Bratislava as soon as possible.

The European Council will meet in Berlin, Germany on 28-29 October 1999.

The ICA General Assembly and Congress will take place in Quebec, Canada on 30-31 August and 1 September 1999.
The Congress will focus on the topic « Adding value to membership », in other words, how co-operatives can demonstrate that they can provide useful services to their members. Three breakout sessions will complete the plenary meeting:

  1. New financial services in a global environment - chaired by Etienne Pflimlin
  2. New challenges in the food sector - chaired by Lars Hillbom
  3. Co-operative services in the face of deregulation and privatisation - chaired by Yehudah Paz

The General Assembly will discuss the Organisational Review of ICA as well as the Vision Statement and Action Plan for the future. Reports from the Youth Conference and the Women's Conference to be held prior to the General Assembly will also be submitted.

Most Specialised Organisations will meet on 28-29 August, with the exception of CICOPA and ICMIF which will hold their meetings after the Congress.

Two Canadian member organisations will be hosting the Congress. The local host is Desjardins, the large savings and credit co-operative movement celebrating its 100 years.

The Congress programme and registration forms were circulated in March. The meeting documentation will be mailed end of June. Further information is available on the ICA Web site: http://www.coop.org and from Vivianne Dubini, ICA Secretariat, phone: (41 22) 929 88 30, E-mail: admin@coop.org

The second business conference of Co-operative Organisations in the Black Sea area will be held on 2-6 June 1999, in Tbilisi, Georgia.




The Federation of Danish Co-operatives celebrated its 100th anniversary on 18 February. Some 550 guests, including the Queen of Denmark, the Prime Minister, and several other official representatives attended the daylong event. ICA President, Roberto Rodrigues, and Director-General, Bruce Thordarson represented ICA.

Agricultural co-operatives continue to play a major role in the Danish economy. Their current market share for various products is: butter - 98%, fur - 97%, pork - 96%, milk - 95%, cheese - 86%, and eggs 50%. Two-thirds of their production is exported.


Mary Treacy, Director for Communications, represented ICA Europe at the Annual School Co-operative Conference in Malta where she also met with the Minister of Social Affairs and other government officials and co-operative leaders. The event attracted a considerable amount of press coverage. The Apex Organisation of Maltese Co-operatives offered to host an international conference on school co-operatives in January 2000.

Please let us know before 15 June if you are interested in participating and/or contributing by a presentation of your case.


Continued growth in S Group's profits and market shares
In 1998 retail trade expanded at the same rate as private consumption that is by about 5%. Retail sales for the S Group (SOK Corporation and co-operative societies together with their subsidiaries) totalled FIM 31444 million, an increase over the year before of 8.4% The Group's grocery business continued to expand, this time by 8.8%. S Group's share of the grocery market is reckoned to have increased from 25.1% to over 26% last year. The increases of 4.6% in the consumer goods trade and 7.1% in the hotel and restaurant business were about the same as the national averages.

Czech Republic

On a visit to Liberec on March 8, where he met with representatives of construction firms and the city's mayor, Regional Development Minister Jaromir Cisar stated that co-operative housing would receive state aid. He believes that the system of supporting housing and maintaining the housing fund has got off to a successful start, and that greater co-operation in areas such as non-profit housing co-operatives is now to be expected.

United Kingdom

UK co-operatives are facing problems as regards raising capital from membership. The Co-operative Union introduced a co-operative deposit protection scheme 20 years ago, which was renewed in 1989 for a further 10 years. Without this scheme, co-operatives could not have accepted deposits from members, i.e. loan capital. In March 2000 this scheme is due to expire and will not be renewed by the government. Existing loan capital has to be repaid by the end of this year. This means that any investment of the members will be considered as risk capital over the amount of £100. So far consumer co-operatives enjoyed exemption but according to the new law all financial institutions - including consumer co-operatives, if they undertake financial operations such as deposit taking - fall under the banking law and are obliged to provide the same information, which is a statement on the health of the business to all their shareholders. A lot of extra costs are involved.

As deposit protection is a requirement of the EU, information is welcome on how other countries tackle this problem. Please send any information to ICA Europe.


A new legislation is before the Senate concerning savings and financial security. Although most of the paragraphs of the new text affect co-operative banks specifically, paragraph thirty-seven, that concerns the abolishment of the upper limit of shares, might have consequences for all co-operative organisations and could encourage the demutualisation process. GNC, the apex organisation of French co-operatives has asked for the withdrawal of this measure.

For more information contact:
Groupement National de la Coopération (GNC), Paris.
Tel: (33 1) 42 93 59 59 Fax: (33 1) 42 93 55 95 Email: gnc@cooperatives.org


White Paper on co-operatives

The European Commission has recently taken the initiative of drafting a White paper on "Co-operatives and Entrepreneurship in Europe 2000". A White Paper is an official set of proposals in a particular policy area. If all DGs of the Commission agree and the paper is adopted, it could be considered as an action plan of the Commission, listing measures in the interest of promoting co-operatives.

A group of experts is helping DGXXIII to draft the 30 page document. The group is made up of members of CMAF (the Commission's Consultative Committee on Co-operatives, Mutuals, Associations and Foundations). Among them are representatives of some of ICA member organisations and the sectoral associations in Brussels and more recently ICA Europe has also been invited to participate. An agreement was made that in terms of the definition of co-operatives, to be used in the White Paper, the co-operative principles adopted at the Manchester Congress of ICA in 1995 would be taken as a basis.

The group will meet again, in early May, before finalising the draft in June. The formal approval of the White Paper by the Commission is expected in September 1999.


Following a general election in September 1998, the new government of Malta decided to reactivate the application for membership. The European Commission will now begin working with Malta to put together a comprehensive national plan for EU accession, focusing in particular on improving Malta's competitiveness and stepping up its adoption and implementation of the acquis.

Agenda 2000

Presidents of the European Union governments met in Berlin on 24-25 March 1999 and reached overall agreement on Agenda 2000. The European Council considers that the policy reforms set out in the conclusions, and the financial framework to fund them over the medium-term, will ensure that the Union is in a position to face the challenges of the forthcoming period and to make a success of its future enlargement. The meeting confirmed that enlargement remains a historic priority for the European Union. The accession negotiations will continue each in accordance with its own rhythm and as rapidly as possible.


The European Commission presented a proposal to adapt the financial thresholds in the definition of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the EU financial reporting Directives. Three criteria define SMEs: the number of employees (50 for small companies and 250 for medium-sized ones), the balance sheet total (threshold set to 2.5 million Euros for small companies and 10 million Euros for medium-sized ones) and net turnover (threshold set to 5 million Euros for small companies and 20 million Euros for medium-sized ones). To be considered SMEs, companies must not exceed two out of the three criteria. The employee's threshold remains unchanged whereas the other thresholds are revised every five years to take account of economic and monetary trends.

Simplification of the European Social Fund

The European Commission hopes to increase spending under the Fund - the EU's main job-creation tool - to around 70 billion Euros between the year 2000 and 2006, but it also plans to restrict the scope of projects covered. The new structural funds will be focused on 'regions whose development is lagging behind' (Objective 1), 'regions undergoing economic and social conversion' (Objective 2) and a new 'horizontal' Objective 3, which will focus on modernising job creation, education and training.

More specifically, the ESF will be 're-aligned' to complement the Union's new European Employment Strategy. The Commission plans to target new ESF funding in five key areas: preventing people falling into the trap of long-term unemployment; making sure those on the margins of society are re-integrated into the labour market; developing the Union's education and training systems; promoting the development of a highly skilled and "adaptable" workforce; and more participation by women in the job market.

With this overall strategy in mind, the Commission wants the ESF to focus on local employment initiatives and plans to hand over the majority of the day-to-day management of schemes to national authorities. Money would be made available to fund training for individuals, to boost local job-creation organisations (be they state-backed, private or non-governmental bodies), and to back initiatives aimed at forging closer links between educational establishments and industry.

Equality between men and women

There was progress on this front in 1998 but much remains to be done, according to a recent European report. Women are at the heart of the European employment strategy, launched last year; and employment is the European Union's first priority. All sorts of initiatives in favour of women were launched in 1998, both in the EU and the various member states. But women continue to suffer much more than men from unemployment, and are not especially powerful. Such are the broad outlines of the picture as regards equality of opportunity, painted in the latest annual report on the subject, and published by the European Commission on Women's Day, March 8.

The report stresses, that women remain a tiny minority in the organs of power, and this at all levels. In the EU as a whole, women are most numerous in regional parliaments, 27.8% of whose members were women in 1998, marginally more than in the European Parliament, where they account for 26.8% of all MEPs. But the proportion falls to just 17.5% on average when it comes to the national parliaments, with very sharp differences between the various member states.

DGXXIII Newsletter

DGXXIII, the Directorate General of the European Commission in charge of "Enterprise Policy, Distributive Trades, Tourism and Co-operatives" publishes a newsletter "EURO-INFO The bulletin of enterprise policy" which appears ten times a year and is available free of charge on written application to:
Euro-info - Rue de la Loi 200 (G-1), B-1049 Brussels
Fax: (32 2) 299 27 69 Email: .cec.be euroinfo-newsletter@dg23
For further information on DGXXIII consult its web site: http://europa.eu.int/comm/dgs/enterprise/index_en.htm

Web site of European Commission

For information on the European Commission consult their web site: http://europa.eu.int/comm/index.htm



The Council of Europe is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. Among a series of meetings and celebrations, the most important event from ICA's point of view will be a joint Parliamentary Assembly/ NGOs conference: "Market oriented society, democracy, citizenship and solidarity: an area or confrontation?" to be held 31 May - 1 June 1999 in Strasbourg. Further information is available from ROEP.

If you want to know more about the role and functions of the Council of Europe please read the article published in the ICA News, No 2/1998. A special web site provides information on the Anniversary events: http://www.coe.int/



The United Nations Secretary-General's Report: Status and role of Co-operatives in the light of new economic and social trends is now available on the UN web site at the following address: http://www.un.org/esa/socdev/a5457e.pdf The Guidelines aimed at creating a supportive environment for the development of co-operatives prepared by the Committee for the Promotion and Advancement of Co-operatives (COPAC) are included as an annex to the report. The report will be considered at the 54th UN General Assembly this autumn.




The Association of European Co-operative and Mutual Insurers (ACME) held a Colloquium on 28 January 1999 on "What is the future for mutual and co-operative insurance in Europe?" For further information contact:
Mrs. Hélène Moreau - ACME Brussels
Tel: (32 2) 231 08 28 Fax: (32 2) 280 03 99
Email: acme@skynet.be


The European Confederation of Workers' Co-operatives (CECOP) opened an office in Prague on 26 January 1999. The role of the office will be to facilitate co-operation between CECOP member organisations in Eastern and Western European countries and assist co-operative enterprises in Central and Eastern Europe to adapt more quickly to the new market economy conditions. For further information contact:
CECOP Brussels
Tel: (32 2) 543 10 33
Fax: (32 2) 543 10 37
Email: cecop@cecop.org


The sectoral association for social housing publishes a Newsletter in English, French and German. In issue number 21 of 1998 you will find a list of funding possibilities of the European Commission available for co-operatives. For further information contact:
Mrs. Tineke Zuidervaart, CECODHAS Netherlands
Tel: (31 35) 626 83 33
Fax: (31 35) 626 84 33


On 16 February 1999, Euro Coop published a document concerning its Position on the European Eco-label scheme, updating its previous position adopted in October 1997. Euro coop expresses concern about the evolution of the EU Eco-label scheme, whose implementation does not work in a satisfactory way, mainly due to various factors such as: lack of visibility on the market, high administrative costs, difficulties with agreeing on criteria. Euro Coop supports the principle of a EU Eco-label scheme, and recognises that Eco-labels are a useful instrument to assess products which have a reduced environmental impact, but the system should respect the following recommendations: inform the consumer about the reduced environmental impact of a product in an easy manner, encourage producers to take the scheme on board, internalise external costs, and organise extensive marketing campaigns to increase awareness of the scheme.


ICA Europe and the Co-ordinating Committee of the European Co-operative Associations (CCACE) have agreed to improve collaboration in the interest of better representation of co-operative organisations and in order to avoid overlapping. It has to be noted that very often members of ICA and the sectoral associations are the same. Regular consultation meetings will be held between CCACE and ICA Europe and both parties will be mutually invited to each other's meetings and conferences. The Rules for ICA Europe contain provisions on the participation and voting of CCACE members at the Regional Assembly.




The ICA Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific (ROAP) will host a "Symposium on Co-operative Legislation and Trade in Transitional Economies" in Hanoi, Vietnam on 24-28 May 1999.

The symposium is being held to review existing co-operative legislation and policies in countries with economies in transition. It will also examine the capacity for co-operatives to operate in the open market under existing co-operative and non-co-operative legislation. Case studies from successful co-operative organisations in Asia and selected ones from Eastern Europe will be presented.
For further information please contact:

Mr. R. Villamin, Director South East Asia,
ICA Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific,
"Bonow House" 43 Friends Colony (East),
New Dehli 110065, INDIA.
Fax: (91 11) 683 55 68
Email: icaroap@vsnl.com



All member organisations are requested to send us any relevant information they want to share with other members.

Please send correspondence to ICA EUROPE at the address below. Deadline for receiving contributions for the next issue is 10 June 1999.


For more details on any of the topics mentioned in the Bulletin please write to:

15 route des Morillons, 1218 Grand-Saconnex, Geneva, Switzerland
Tel: (41 22) 929 88 31/02 Fax: (41 22) 798 41 22
Email: icaeurope@coop.org

Last updated: 7 August 2000 / Links updated 24 January 2002


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