World Overview - Europe (1998)

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This document has been made available in electronic
format by the International Co-operative Alliance (ICA)
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March, 1998
(Source: ICA News, Issue No.1/1998-pp.2-4)

World Overview - Europe
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FINLAND
========
New Co-ops in 1998
-------------------------
In the beginning of January 1998 there were 601 new co-operatives in
Finland, of which worker co-ops are the biggest group, numbering 85
compared to 113 marketing co-ops and 61 supply-co-ops.

Social, health and welfare co-operatives are also increasing and now
number 23. Cultural, publishing and communications co-ops are also
a growing sector with a present total of 25 co-ops..

Young people have become increasingly interested in co-operatives as
a form of enterprise. They are forming co-operatives in order to be able
to use their own expertise in the fields of data technology, culture and
marketing.

New co-operatives are also emerging in the countryside for village
development, marketing of products, tourist services and various temporary
services. Energy co-operatives have been formed to produce energy for
communes and population centres. It is expected that the number of co-ops
dealing with environmental issues such as recycling, waste management,
development of quality systems and sustainable products will also increase.

20-30 new co-operatives are formed every month. The majority of the
present 600 new co-operatives have been founded within  the last two
years. In 1995 the number of worker co-operatives was 40, in the
beginning of 1996 it had increased to 82 and it now totals almost 300.
This reflects the booming interest in co-operatives.

The business idea of the majority of Finnish worker co-operatives is to hire
out various services.  The most popular fields are construction, clerical
work, ADP, bookkeeping and industrial services. 

New co-operatives have now about 15, 000 members.  Most of these new
co-operatives have been formed by unemployed people wishing to employ
themselves by joining together.  According to the Ministry of Labour new
co-operatives give jobs to 8,000 - 15,000 people.

-(Source: Finnish Consumer Co-operative Association (FCCA)


FRANCE
=======
Co-ops well-regarded by public opinion
------------------------------------------------
On the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the passage of France's present
co-operative law, the Groupement National de la Cooperation organised a
seminar and press conference at the French Senate on 12 February in order
to publicise recent developments in the sector.

GNC President Jean-Claude Detilleux described the vitality and diversity of
the co-operative sector in France: 18 million members, 30 percent of the
retail banking sector, and annual turnover of 600 billion francs in the non-
financial sector.

According to a public opinion survey carried out by the national agency
IFOP, 68 percent of the French population regard co-operatives as efficient,
58 percent describe them as modern and innovative, and 62 percent regard
them as an important contributor to the fight against unemployment. 
However, while co-operatives are understood generally as groups of people
working together for mutual benefit, two persons out of three have only a
vague image of how they really operate.

During the seminar it was reported that the large savings bank sector
(caisses d'epargne), with 28 million customers, intends to adopt a
co- operative status in the future.  "We have been practicing co-operation
for many years without knowing it," said a senior official.

- (Source: Groupement National de la Cooperation)

GERMANY
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New Master's Course Offered
------------------------------------
A new two-year Master's Course in Co-operative Economics will begin
in October 1998 at the Institute for Co-operation in Developing Countries at
the Philipps-University of Marburg.  It is offered to applicants from the
Newly Independent States as well as from countries in Asia, Africa and
Latin America.

The programme covers general economics and business administration,
with special emphasis on co-operative science and agro-economics.

Applications must be submitted by 1 July 1998.  For those applicants
wishing to take language training in German before starting the Master's
programme the deadline is 28 February 1998,

Further information is available from the Institute for Co-operation in
Developing Countries, Philipps-University of Marburg, D-35032 Marburg,
Germany.

New Co-operatives Filling Government Gap
-----------------------------------------------------
A survey conducted by the German Co-operative and Raiffeisen
Confederation (DGRV) has shown that a total of 109 new co-operatives
with more than 11,000 members were established in the years 1992-96.
These do not include mergers or reorganisations. Among the new
co-operatives, the majority were in the food production sector. Other
growth areas were in data processing, medical services, and water supply.

According to Dr. Mathias Graumann of DGRV, the analysis illustrates that
new co-operative businesses are emerging in a number of fields from which
the State is withdrawing, such as education, water supply and waste water
management, health services, and care of the elderly.
- (Source: IRU Courier, 3/97)


HUNGARY
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CO-OP HUNGARY Looks to the Future
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In November 1997, the National Council of Hungarian Co-operatives
decided that in future AFEOSZ - CO-OP HUNGARY will function as
the national organ representing the interests of the consumer co-operative
societies. AFEOSZ will represent the co-operatives before the Hungarian
Government as well as internationally.

The 3rd Congress held on 10-11 December has confirmed that co-operatives
have to focus on strengthening their joint purchasing organs - Pro-Coops ,
distribution centres, and CO-OP HUNGARY. It was decided to further
develop the CO-OP chain store in order to project a uniform image in the
market to customers and membership. Pal Bartus has been re-elected as
President of AFEOSZ.

The Co-operative Research Institute has moved to their headquarters: 1054
Budapest, Szabadsag ter 14. Tel +361-1534222

-(Source: E-mail: Coop.H. Intern@mail.datanet.hu)


ITALY
=====

Consumer Co-operatives Progress
-----------------------------------------
Italy's consumer co-operatives reported an impressive 6 percent growth
rate in 1997, with 170,000 new members and a total turnover of
US$ 8.5 billion.

The large hypercoops played a particularly important role and now
contribute more than 30 percent of the Co-op's total turnover.  In 1998,
18 large new co-operatives are expected to open.

The movement has also published its annual Social Report outlining its
action in the area of consumer protection, information, and the environment.

A "fair consumption" project has been initiated to promote and create
awareness about fair trade and ethical production.

- (Source:  Coop Italy)


SWITZERLAND
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Migros Well-Rated
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Migros Co-operative, Switzerland's largest retailer, has received a rating
of AA- from the Standard and Poors agency.

According to a spokesman from the rating agency, only the American
Wal-Mart and Britain's Marks and Spencer have achieved a higher rating
in the highly competitive retail sector.

- (Source: L'Hebdo, 29 January 1998)

Co-op Banks Fill Gap Left by Big Three
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The Raiffeisen Co-operative Banks have become the fourth largest banking
group in Switzerland, following the three large multinational banks.

According to Raiffeisen President, Marius Cottier, this development is a
result of the "enduring character of Raiffeisen's commercial philosophy.

While our competitors are constantly closing their branches and releasing
staff in order to maximise benefits for shareholders, Raiffeissen continues
to concentrate on quality growth...at the local level, where we are
represented in one county (commune) in three."

During 1996 the group's consolidated assets grew by 8.5 percent to 56.6
billion Swiss francs, while its year-end results rose by 38 percent.

- (Source: Union Suisse de Banques Raiffeisen, Rapport de Gestion 1996)


UNITED KINGDOM
===============

UK to Host European Debate on Social Economy
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The 6th European Conference on the Social Economy will be held
on 3-5 June 1998 at the International Convention Centre, Birmingham, UK.
The conference is intended to enable social economy organisations to forge
new partnerships and encourage the spread of best practice and innovative
ideas across Europe.

Further information from Stephanie Lennon, Unity Trust Bank, 4 The
Square, 111 Broad Street, Birmingham B15 1AR, Tel: 0121 616 4149

-(Source: UK Social Economy Forum, December 1997)

Agricultural Co-operatives Growing
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Britain's agricultural and horticultural co-operatives achieved impressive
growth rates in 1997 despite difficult trading conditions,  according to
the 1998 edition of the UK Directory and Statistics of Agricultural
Co-operatives and other Farmer-Controlled Businesses published by
the Plunkett Foundation.

Total turnover of 545 U.K. farmer-controlled businesses was up 9 percent
to 7.4 billion pounds sterling.  It is estimated that they handle about
one-third of total agricultural output, with higher figures in sectors such
as dairy (85 percent of the market) and fruit (67 percent).

Copies of the 1998 directory are available for sale from the Plunkett
Foundation, 23 Hanborough Business Park, Long Hanborough, Oxford
OX8 8LH, UK.

Superstores to go in Co-op Shake-up
--------------------------------------------
The CWS is cutting 20 million pounds from its supply costs and is planning
to withdraw from superstores. Restructuring plans include a management
shake-up to help CWS cross-market to customers its financial services,
travel, optician, pharmacy and food stores, etc.

A 5pc dividend card will be re-introduced nationally by the spring. CWS's
19 superstores will be reviewed and the proceeds reinvested in convenience
stores and medium-sized supermarket and stripping out costs in the supply
chain falls.

-(Source: The Daily Telegraph, December 1997)


UK Supermarkets Leery of PVC
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Two leading UK supermarkets, Tesco and the Co-operative Wholesale
Society, have said they will phase out their use of PVC unless
manufacturers improve standards. The retailers want the PVC industry
to agree on  a deadline to improve production methods and adopt
"exceptional" standards. These may be based on the industry charter of
the European Council of Vinyl Manufacturers, a voluntary code which
includes some discharge and air emission limits. Compliance would be
assessed by independent audits. 

For further information contact: Co-operative Wholesale Society:
E-mail: http://www.publish1. co-op.co.uk Tel: (00 44) 161 827 5292

-(Source: http://www.tomorrow-web)