Report of the Vice-President for Europe

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This document has been made available in electronic format
     by the International Co-operative Alliance ICA
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                     January 1996


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       Report of the Vice-President for Europe
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by Graham Melmoth*

Since the last General Assembly in September, 1993, we have worked hard to
establish the European Region of the ICA and define its priorities and work
programme.

The process of regionalisation has progressed through regular consultation
with our member organisations in Europe. The membership has met three times
since the new structure was established: on 10 September, 1993, in Geneva,
on 26  and 27 October, 1994, in Prague and here in Manchester this week as
a preliminary to the Centennial Congress of the Alliance.

The European Council has met on six occasions, the first three times as a
provisional Consultative Committee: in Brussels in November, 1993, in
Seville in May, 1994, and in Prague in October, 1994; subsequently, after
the formal elections by the European Assembly in Prague, the Council met in
Strasbourg in May, 1995, in St. Petersburg last July and on Tuesday last,
l9 September, here in Manchester.

All of these meetings, which have involved virtually all of the
representatives invited, discussed the common problems of Co-operatives in
the Region and established the basis for the Statutes of the Assembly and
the main work priorities.

These addressed the principle concerns of the European Region and sought to
regularise the relationship between the nine Sector Associations and the
European Region, with which Co-operative Agreements will, I hope, shortly
be signed.

It has been a pan-European perspective which has lain behind the role of
ICA Europe and this is recognised in the Statutes. This perspective
reflects the development of co-operation between Co-operative Movements
within the European Union, now enlarged to fifteen Member States, and those
of Central and Eastern Europe, most of which aspire to join the European
Union, including the Co-operative Movements of the Confederation of
Independent States.

These first two years of work have enabled the Regional Assembly to be
formally constituted, to have definitive Statutes adopted and to have a
Council representative of the membership elected. This Council now
comprises a Chairman - Lars Hillbom, two Vice- Chairmen - Raija Itkonen and
Ota Karen and twelve members. We have tried to evaluate the work we can do
in Europe realistically, without creating new structures or adding to the
fixed costs of the ICA.

I would emphasise that the work I have described has been achieved thanks
to the voluntary work and self financing of Co-operative member
organisations in Europe, supplemented by modest external funding from the
European Commission.

When the Regional Assembly met in Prague in October, 1994, the decision was
taken to focus the activities of the Working Groups on six priorities:

1.   Supporting Co-operatives in Eastern and Central Europe;
2.   The corporate governance of Co-operatives;
3.   Sustainable human development;
4.   Equality between men and women     in Co-operatives (the gender question);
5.   Improvement in the exchange of information and in communications
amongst Co-operatives; and
6.   Co-operatives and schools.

The Council and the European Regional Assembly held in Manchester earlier
this week reviewed the situation and measured the principle results
achieved to date. Amongst the positive results which we achieved were the
following:

*    Several seminars and projects achieved by Co-op Network geared to
support East/West co-operation in Europe;
*    Recommendations on corporate governance and management control systems
in Co-operatives. This will lead to the publication of a Code of Practice
deriving principally from the work of Reimer Volkers;
*    Recommendations directed towards development strategies amongst
Co-operatives in Africa;
*    Recommendations on dealing with relations between men and women in
Co-operatives, summarised in the motion "Gender Equality in Co-operatives"
which we would hope will be approved by this General Assembly;
*    Progress in improving systems for the exchange of information, not
least extensive use of E-Mail and the worldwide web facility promoting the
Co-op image;

*    A beautifully produced account of the experiences of the promotion of
Co-operatives in European schools, a document which will be available for
use in other Regions of the ICA.

Our four priorities were adopted by the Regional Assembly when it met here
in Manchester on l9 September.

I should underline that the successful realisation of the priorities
identified will call for the participation of all European Co-operative
Movements as well as the firm collaboration of members of the Sector
Associations of the CCACC with which Protocols of Agreement have begun to
be signed during the course of this Congress here in Manchester. So what
are the future priorities of ICA Europe as they have been defined?

1.   Strengthening Co-ops in Eastern and Central Europe
     This priority will comprise assistance towards the development of
Co-operative Movements in Eastern and Central Europe and the CIS in
conjunction with Co-op Network, as well as defining the ultimate stages for
integrating these activities fully within ICA Europe.

2.   Codes of Practice Governing Methods of Management and Control Systems
     This priority will cover the work following the revision of
Co-operative Principles as is to be approved at the end of this Congress,
and assistance to Co-operative Movements which desire to apply the
recommendations which result from analysis of the seminar on Corporate
Governance in St. Petersburg last July and the summary report by Reimer
Volkers.

3.   Sustainable Human Development
     So far as this subject is concerned, ICA Europe proposes to focus its
priorities on three aspects: the environment, the creation of employment
and the battle against exclusion, i.e. barriers and controls preventing the
free movement of peoples, and international co-operation between North and
South.

4.   About Co-operatives and Improving Communication
     This priority includes the final stages of the project "Co-operatives
and Schools" as well as the European contribution to the global ICA
programme on communications and participation via E-Mail and the worldwide
network.

     I would like to emphasise two important lessons I have drawn from my
experiences in office in the European Region which may be something of a
legacy for my successor, my good friend Lars Hillbom, Vice-President of
Ko-operativa Forbundet, whom I congratulate on his election as Chairman of
the Region:

a.   The importance of integrating East/West and North/South initiatives
within the Region and of maintaining a continuing dialogue between Sector
Co-operatives and Inter Sectoral Movements which are essential for the
development of European Co-operatives; and

b.   The necessity to maintain during the process of decentralisation of
the Alliance a vision and a global perception of the ICA as a whole which
must rest upon a unitary organisation. We must not allow the ICA to
fragment itself in such a way that the Regions are competing with each
other. Each Region is part of the whole and the whole is greater than the
sum of its parts.

I have very much enjoyed my time as Vice-President - Europe and I would
like to thank the membership for be-stowing that office upon me.

* Mr. Melmoth, former ICA Vice-President for Europe, has now been replaced
by Lars Hillbom from Sweden, in view of his recent elction to ICA
Presidency.