This document has been made available in electronic format by the International Co-operative Alliance (ICA) 

World Overview (1998)

August, 1998
(Source: ICA News, Issue No. 3/1998, pp.3-5)

World Overview
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Black Sea
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Black Sea Co-ops Discuss Business
-------------------------------------------- Co-operative representatives from Bulgaria, Turkey, Greece, Yogoslavia, Romania, Moldova, Georgia and Russia met in Varna, Bulgaria, from 2-5 June, 1998, to exchange information on current commercial developments and discuss possibilities for trade, foreign investment, and joint ventures. Ota Karen, Vice Chairman of ICA Europe, represented ICA.

Participants concluded that the meeting, organised by Panacho Ivanov of the Central Co-operative Union in Bulgaria, had been an important initiative in terms of promoting closer commercial ties among co-operatives in the Black Sea region. Similar business meetings should be held in the future.

Canada
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Credit Unions Study Integration
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Canada's English speaking credit unions have established a national task force to examine options for combining the delivery of their services across the country.

At present Canada's 873 credit unions, with assets of 47 billion Canadian dollars, are provincially regulated. However, the recently-announced mergers involving the four largest Canadian Banks have spurred the credit unions to look at ways in which they can improve their service delivery.

"My vision," says Credit Union Central of Canada's chairman Bobby McVeigh, "is a credit union system that has a standardized service and products across the country... However, the credit union philosophy - one member, one vote - will not change", he insisted.

(Source: The Globe and Mail, Toronto, 14 July)

Chile
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Coopeuch Celebrates 30 Years of Success
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The savings and credit co-operative representing the staff of the University of Chile celebrated its 30th anniversary last year. According to its annual report, 1997 profits increased by 29 per cent to 9.1 million U.S. dollars. During the last few years Coopeuch has become an active member of the International Co-operative Alliance, and in 1997 organised an international seminar on risk evaluation involving 60 foreign delegates.

France
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Credit Mutuel Takes over CIC
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On 14 April, the French Government announced the transfer of the CIC group of regional banks to the Credit Mutuel. CM takes over 67% of the capital for the sum of 13.4 billion francs, with the insurance group GAN maintaining 20%. The CM-CIC Group represents a market share close to 12%. The commercial banks belonging to the French Bankers' Association (APB) had been campaigning actively for several months in order to stop the CIC from being taken over by a co-operative bank. However, the Government opted for the Credit Mutuel's project proposal rather than that of the Societe Generale or ABN Amro. The Government considered this offer to be the best both from an economic and strategic angle and also a good political and social choice in terms of employment, taking account of regional interests and social dialogue. The French Minister of the Economy, Mr. Dominique Strauss-Kahn, also welcomed this "exemplary" transaction.

The stormy privatisation process undergone by the CIC has greatly contributed to making the general public aware of the success experienced by French co-operative banks. It has also made known to the media the co-operative solution as an alternative to the capitalist model.

Greece
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Award for Greek & Turk Farmers
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The farm organisations Paseges (Greece) and Tzob (Turkey) have been awarded the peace and friendship prize which recognises peace initiatives between the two countries. This prestigious prize is awarded once a year by a foundation that includes the Turkish newspaper, Millyet, and the Greek magazine, Elefterotipia. The two organisations were honoured for their work together on both bilateral and international levels.

(Source: World Farmer, Jan-March, 1998).

Ireland
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New Housing Association against Exclusion
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The Novas-Ouvertures Group of voluntary organisations is proposing to set up a new Housing Association in the Republic of Ireland. This Association will be locally based and controlled, but able to tap into the expertise and resources of other Group members in the finding of innovative solutions to the housing needs of excluded groups in society, e.g. young single homeless, single parents, travellers, and those with special needs. The Association, which will be based in Co. Cork, is in the process of registration. It will be managed by a committee of experienced and committed local people.

For information contact: Jose Ospina, Services Development Manager, Tirna Droichead, the Wooden House, Rossnagoose, Skibbereen, Co.Cork, Tel.(+353)28 21890 Fax. 28 21897.

Italy
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Co-operative Entrepreneurship in 2000
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On 30 November and 1 December 1998, an important European Conference on `The Co-operative Entrepreneurship in Europe in 2000' will take place in Bologna. This initiative, supported by DG XXIII of the European Commission, is the fruit of a partnership between the Instituto Luzzatti, the four intersectorial Italian co-operative organisations (Confcoop, Legacoop, AGCI and UNCI) and CIRIEC International, in collaboration with CIRIEC-Italia.

Its objective is to define the orientations that could be followed by the European Commission in its policy with respect towards co-operatives.

(Source: CIRIEC International)

Poland
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Polish Co-operatives on "Top 500 List"
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The June issue of the Gazeta Bankowa (Banking Newspaper), Poland's most read financial paper, published a list of the 500 largest enterprises. This year 15 co-operative societies are listed: ten in retail distribution, four dairy co-ops and one workers' co-op.
(Source: Gazeta Bankowa, No.22/1998).

Polish Housing Co-ops Make Good
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A recently published study by the United Nations Commission for Europe notes that "Housing co-operatives could be considered as the main private-sector operator in Poland's housing sector with considerable tasks ahead, both in the existing housing stock and in new construction. In 1996 co-ops were responsible for 77 per cent of all new housing construction in Warsaw and held 2.8 of the national housing market. The study, Country Profiles on the Housing Sector in Poland, notes that the housing co-operative movement has gone through considerable changes. Prior to 1990 the movement was considered a `quasi-governmental' structure which lost credibility as an effective agent in a market-oriented housing sector. Today, however, housing co-operatives are operating according to recognised co-operative principles and "...should clearly be considered as the main developer of new housing".
(Source: The 1998 study (ref.ECE/HBP/107) is available from the UN)

Russia
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New Apex Association Established
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Representatives of consumer, agriculture, production, and financial co-operatives have established a new apex organisation, the Association of Co-operative Organisations of the Russian Federation. Its main purpose will be to coordinate discussions with state authorities on behalf of all co-operative sectors. Mr. Valentin Ermakov, Chairman of the Council of Centrosoyus, was elected chairman of the new association.

Sweden
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SCC Receives Social Economy Award
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The Swedish Co-operative Centre has been awarded the Txemi Cantera Social Economy Prize for 1997. The award is made annually by the Basque Association of Workers Incorporated Companies to institutions or individuals who have been outstanding defenders of the principles of participation, democracy, and solidarity. The award, consisting of a bronze sculpture and cash prize of one million pesetas, was presented in Bailbao to SCC Chairman Lars Hillbom.

New Co-operative Library
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The Swedish Co-operative Union and Wholesale Society (KF) has transferred its archives and library to the Swedish Co-operative Institute (Koopi). The more than 90,000 volumes will be available to researchers, journalists, and other interested parties. The new and expanded Koopi Library has also been recognised as an ICA-affiliated library. Other interested libraries should contact the ICA.

Switzerland
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Restructuration not Globalisation
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Co-op Switzerland is undergoing a phase of restructuration at a speed and intensity never experienced before according to Vice President Anton Felder. In spite of this, in 1997 its turnover increased over 1.7% to CHF 11,9 billion, with sales peaking at 10.9 billion Francs, due essentially to the phenomenal success of its ecological products. The net profit in 1997 was 129 million Francs, a sum which the President, Hansueli Loosli wants to increase to 200 million by the year 2002. Co-op is rationalising operations in order to cut prices. Last year Co-op suppressed 93 small shops and opened 69 new, generally larger stores. Certain regional societies have merged into larger units and this trend will continue in the future. Fifty-one jobs have been suppressed during restructuration and under these conditions the policy is not to expand into other countries.
(Source: Le Temps, 24 April 1998)

United Kingdom
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CWS Reports Continued Progress
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The Co-operative Wholesale Society, Europe's largest consumer co-operative, increased its total consolidated sales in 1997 to over #3 billion, with consolidated operating profit increasing by #6 million to #92 million. Of this, #38 million was generated from trading activities and #54 million from banking.

According to Chief Executive, Graham Melmoth, the major strategic review of retail business conducted in 1997 is now largely over and a new top management team is in place. The Dividend Card has now been introduced into every CWS food retail outlet.

Mr. Melmoth stressed that these developments "must be seen as part of a new determination to look for sustainable growth rather than retrenchment, and to invest in our strengths".

Co-operative values and principles have been incorporated into a new Code of Business Conduct, and a social audit process is currently being developed, he told members.
(Source: CWS Annual Report, 1997)

U.S.A.
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Credit Union Campaign
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The U.S. Supreme Court has dealt a potentially heavy blow to the U.S. credit union system by supporting, in a 5-4 decision, the position of the U.S. Bankers Association that credit unions should not be allowed to draw their members from a variety of occupations.

The battle will now move to Congress, where the credit union system has launched a large lobbying campaign in order to amend the Federal Credit Union Act of 1934 through passage of a new Credit Union membership Access Act that would allow credit union to serve multiple groups in their membership.
(Source: NCBA Co-operative Business Journal)