Minutes of the Regional Assembly for Europe (1996)

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    This document has been made available in electronic format
         by the International Co-operative Alliance ICA 
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                         December, 1996
          (Source: Review of International Co-operation
                    Vol.89, No.4/1996, pp.5-10)

               ICA Regional  Assembly for  Europe
                          30 October 1996
                         Budapest, Hungary

                           Draft Minutes
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Opening Ceremony
----------------
The ICA Vice-President for Europe, Lars Hillbom, opened the
meeting by asking participants to stand for a moment of silence
in tribute to the co-operators who passed away since the Regional
Assembly of Prague in 1994.

Mr. Laszlu Lakos, Minister for Agriculture spoke on behalf of the
Prime Minister, Gyula Horn. He thanked ICA for its support in
encouraging the democratic transformation of co-operatives in
Hungary. He referred to his personal commitment to the
co-operative movement, being a member of a co-operative where he
started to work after university and of which he had been elected
president before he became minister. He confirmed that the
government pursues a co-operative-friendly policy but pointed out
the existing tension caused by the political, social and economic
transformation in view of joining the European Union. Regarding
the new co-operative law drafted by the government he admitted
that this text, lacking co-ordination with and agreement of the
coŠoperative federations, had been removed from the agenda of the
following government session. In relation to ICA's priorities he
underlined the particular importance of the programme supporting
co-operatives in Central and Eastern Europe and that of improving
the image of co-operatives. 

The President of the National Co-operative Council of Hungary,
Tamas Nagy, welcomed participants to Budapest. He stressed the
difficulty for co-operatives in getting integrated into the
market economy without losing their identity and underlined the
social responsibility of co-operatives. Speaking about ICA he
also thanked it for the support of co-operative experts and asked
for further assistance for shaping the future of co-operatives. 

Official Business
-----------------
Lars Hillbom, who chaired the meeting, introduced the agenda as
circulated to members on 18 September. The agenda was approved.

The Minutes of the Special Regional Assembly held in Manchester,
on 19 September 1995, circulated to members on 9 October 1995
were also approved.

Activity Report and Priorities for Europe
-----------------------------------------
Lars Hillbom then reported on the activities and priorities of
the European Region since the Special Regional Assembly held in
Manchester. He referred to the implementation of the priorities
and other activities also published in the Annual Report of ICA
which was distributed in Budapest to all registered participants
of the Regional Assembly. He spoke about meetings he or the
Secretariat had attended including ICA Board meetings, visits to
several co-operative movements with special reference to his
recent trips to Poland, the Slovak Republic and Russia.

In connection with the Board meetings he reported on the
activities of the Special Committee on Rules and Finance; the
decision on the establishment of the Development Trust Fund with
headquarters in Luxembourg; changing the venue of the 1997
General Assembly with the main topic of "civil society"; and the
next Board meeting scheduled for April 1997 in Uganda.

Talking about other regions he referred to the assemblies in Asia
and Africa and the upcoming Regional Assembly to be held for the
American Region in Costa Rica.

With reference to collaboration with the European Union he
underlined that it had become necessary for ICA Europe to define
its role and design a strategy vis-a-vis the organisations
of the European Union. He informed the Regional Assembly about
the decision of the European Council the day before on requesting
the Secretariat to draft a strategy.

Lars Hillbom informed members about the closing of the Co-op
Network for Co-operative Development in Eastern and Central
Europe following the decision of the European Council in March
1996 and confirmed that the activity would go on within the
framework of ICA Europe according to the recommendations of the
Working Group on East-West collaboration.

A brief account was given on meetings organised prior to the
Regional Assembly in collaboration with the International
Raiffeisen Union (IRU), specifically the ICA-IRU joint
Board meeting and the Seminar on financial co-operatives.

As regards future activities he informed the Assembly that ICA
Europe will also have to prepare a four-year plan, similarly to
other regions. As far as the work plan for 1997 is concerned he
mentioned three Seminars scheduled for next year, namely:

*    one within North-South collaboration on project evaluation,

*    another one on the enlargement of Europe and its effects on
     co-operatives,

*    and the third one on Euro-Mediterranean co-operation.

Interventions:
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Ivar Hansen (Norway) confirmed that it was a decision of the
Co-op Network's Board to cease to exist as an organisation and
he recommended to use the experience and enthusiasm of those
involved in the Network.

Mr. Naka (Japan) stressed the social responsibilities of
co-operatives in addition to their being business organisations
and assured ICA of the continuous support of his co-operative as
regards development in Central and Eastern Europe. He also
distributed a summary on the activities of Osaka Izumi
Co-operative.

The activity report was accepted.

Welcoming New Members
---------------------
The Chairman informed participants about the admission by the ICA
Board of two European organisations, the Apex Organisation of
Maltese Co-operatives and the Co-operative Federation of
Bosnia-Herzegovina. He gave the floor to the President of the
latter who expressed his thanks to ICA for its solidarity and
positive decision. He explained briefly the extremely difficult
situation during the war and the burning need for assistance in
relaunching co-operative activities after the war.

Report of the Working Group on East-West Collaboration
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Dr. Hans-Detlef Wulker, chairman of the Working Group (WG)
informed the Regional Assembly about the activity of the WG since
its establishment by the European Council in March 1996. He
referred to the aim of the WG, namely making recommendations
facilitating the definition of the strategy ICA Europe should
follow in respect of its policy assisting co-operative
development in Central and Eastern Europe.

Dr. Wulker explained the working method and activities of the
Group. Due to time constraints, members had agreed to start the
work through correspondence. In order to improve transparency,
a questionnaire had been sent out to all European member
organisations in East and West as well as to the sectoral
associations, enquiring about their ongoing project activities
and needs. Based on the evaluation of the replies Dr. Wulker had
prepared a discussion paper which was thoroughly discussed at the
meeting of the Working Group in September in Geneva. This had
enabled Dr. Wulker to draft the enclosed report previously
coŠordinated with the WG members. The recommendations of the
Group are briefly as follows:

a)   ICA should strive to have "policy dialogues" with
     governments - together with other international
     co-operative organisations - in order to improve the
     environment for co-operative development.

b)   ICA should function as an intermediary agency and clearing
     house of information for the benefit of its members.

c)   At the request of its members ICA can be involved as
     co-partner in bilateral projects.

d)   If there is a need expressed by a member for ICA to take
     part in international tenders, clear rules are to be set
     for regulating its relations to members involved in
     development activities in order to avoid competition. ICA
     should never act as a consulting firm.

e)   ICA should update its information base annually by
     circulating similar questionnaires.

Dr. Wulker concluded by saying that the WG had fulfilled its task

and now it was the responsibility of the European Council to
define the strategy ICA Europe should follow as regards its
policy vis-a-vis Central and Eastern Europe.

The chairman opened the floor for discussion.

Edgar Parnell (UK) welcomed the report and agreed that ICA should
not compete with its member organisations. He emphasized the need
for practical business development assistance instead of too many
seminars. He referred to cases of technical assistance provided
by private consultancy companies which were only in it for the
money, not knowing what a co-operative was. He stressed the need
for a strong lobby at national and European level, and possibly
also with the World Bank institutions. Co-operatives and
co-operative members, he said, are all substantial tax-payers and
should have their share from technical assistance funds earmarked
for supporting the re-birth of co-operatives. In view of keen
competitors he called for an immediate joint action to help
co-operatives in Central and Eastern Europe in their preparations
for joining the European Union.

Etienne Pflimlin (France) expressed appreciation for the work of
Dr. Wulker and his group providing guidelines and thus,
facilitating the definition of a strategy. He did not totally
agree with Mr. Parnell regarding the role of Seminars.

The Regional Assembly accepted the report. Mr. Hillbom also
expressed his thanks to the Working Group.

Confirmation of Nomination for ICA Vice-President
--------------------------------------------------
The Chairman gave the floor to Raija Itkonen in order to explain
this agenda item. Ms.Itkonen reminded delegates of the election
of Lars Hillbom as Chairman for the European Region at the
Special Regional Assembly held in Manchester in 1995. She said
that, as the Chairmen of the different regions are at the same
time Vice-Presidents of ICA, in compliance with the ICA Rules,
the nomination of Mr. Hillbom to the post of ICA Vice-President
needs to be confirmed by the Regional Assembly. Ms. Itkonen
proposed delegates to accept the nomination of Mr. Hillbom. Her
proposal was unanimously accepted.

Address by Graham Melmoth, President of ICA
-------------------------------------------
In his address Mr. Melmoth compared activities going on in the
other regions with those of Europe and spoke about priorities set
by the ICA Board. As a follow-up to the motion on gender equality
he hoped for a better gender balance at the next elections of the
ICA Board taking place in 1997. He referred to the Development
Trust Fund and an advisory committee helping its activities.
Speaking about improved membership relations he mentioned the
questionnaire which had been sent out inquiring about membersÕ
needs and encouraged representatives to give their opinion. He
stressed the need for closer relations with the specialised
organisations. Mr. Melmoth acknowledged the welcome of Mr. Nagy,
President of the Hungarian National Council of Co-operatives and
the lecture of Mr. Bod (EBRD) given at the IRU Seminar on the
difficulties of transformation in Central and Eastern Europe.
Finally he expressed his appreciation of the dynamically
developing European activities under the chairmanship of Mr.
Hillbom.

Message of Arpad Goncz, President of Hungary
--------------------------------------------
The message of the President of Hungary addressed to the Regional
Assembly was read out by Z. Szoke, Vice-President of Co-op
Hungary. In his greetings Mr. Goncz stressed how significant it
was for the Hungarian co-operative movement that the ICA had
chosen Budapest as its venue. He mentioned national anniversaries
of 1996 - 1100 years of Hungarians - settlement in the Carpathian
basin and 40 years since the revolution in 1956 - as sources of
strength for the people in the difficult period of social
transformation and adaptation to the market economy.

Main topic: "Corporate Governance and Management Control Systems
in European Co-operatives"

The afternoon session was devoted to the topic of "Corporate
Governance and Management Control Systems in European
Co-operatives".
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There were six speakers who addressed the theme from different
aspects. Ivano Barberini, President of LEGA, Italy, explored the
requirements of both internal and external controls. Pal Bartus,
President of the National Federation of Consumer Co-operatives,
Hungary, talked about management control experiences in a country
of transition. Raija Itkonen, International Manager of FNCC,
Finland, spoke about her views on co-operative corporate
governance including the gender aspect. Andreas Nicolaisen,
auditor, Denmark, concentrated on the auditors' responsibilities
related to reports to the members. Etienne Pflimlin, President
of the National Confederation of Credit Mutuel, France, referred
particularly to technical and democratic controls in the European
co-operative banks. Steinar Sivertsen, Deputy Chief of Co-op
Norway, dealt with Governance issues as seen from a Management
perspective.

After every two speakers the floor was opened for discussion and
the six lectures were followed by a panel discussion. The
discussion was facilitated by Lloyd Wilkinson, Chief Executive
Officer of the Co-operative Union of the United Kingdom.

Following the interventions, questions and comments of 15
participants, the discussion was summarized by Mr. Wilkinson and
as a conclusion, a statement - attached to these minutes -
was distributed to the participants.  

Lars Hillbom asked delegates to adopt the statement and suggested
co-operative member organisations use them as guidelines in their
work for the improvement of corporate governance and management
control systems. The statement was approved.

Date and Venue of the Next European Regional Assembly
------------------------------------------------------
Lars Hillbom announced that the GNC (Groupement National de la
Cooperation) had offered to host the next Regional Assembly in
France, probably in Paris, in autumn 1998. The representatives
accepted the invitation.  

There being no other business the Chairman closed the meeting of
the Regional Assembly for Europe.