(Source: ICA Review, Vol.91 No.2 - Annual Report 1997-1998, pp. 41-43)
5. Regional Office for Europe (ROEP)
Work continued along the four priorities set for ICA Europe, which areStrengthening of Co-operatives in Eastern and Central Europe; Code of Practice, Governing Methods and Management Control Systems; Sustainable Human Development; and Co-operative Image in Europe: improving information and communication. There were, however, three determinant factors that influenced most of the activities in 1997:
1. The rapidly changing environment in Europe due to the enlargement process of the European Union.
The future accession of Central and Eastern European countries to the EU will profoundly affect co-operative enterprises, and as a consequence they will need increased assistance from ICA to adapt to the new conditions. This was the topic of several conferences during the year.
The 120 co-operative leaders attending the seminar of ICA Europe, organised in Prague on 3-4 November, discussed the impact of the European Union’s enlargement on co-operatives. Representatives of the European Parliament and the European Commission addressed the meeting.
Two sectoral conferences handled the same question, one organised by the Czech consumer co-operatives on integration and another by the Polish co-operative federation of agricultural co-operatives.
The issue of the reform and enlargement of the European Union is expected to be the most discussed topic of the coming years.
2. The launching of the Project “Statistics and Information on European
Co-operatives” which obtained a grant from the European Commission.
Responses to the questionnaires sent out to co-operative organisations in all European countries have been received. A mid-term progress report was well received by DG XXIII. The electronic processing of the data collected has started.
3. The preparation for the Regional Assembly for Europe to be organised in Paris, 15-16 October 1998.
The French host organisations set up an organising committee. Election of a new European Council will take place at the Assembly and a one-day session will be devoted to discuss the future of co-operation, and threats and opportunities for co-operative societies.
Rules of procedures were proposed for ICA Europe’s involvement in East-West project activities. These will be brought in line with the global ICA development policy.
The information received from member organisations on their on-going project activities and development needs were evaluated. 75% responded and indicated management training, financial services, marketing and legislation as main areas where assistance was most needed.
A European breakdown of responses to the ICA questionnaire on Gender participation gave us an indication of the poor representation of women in governing bodies. As a follow-up, actions were proposed to improve gender equality with special attention to women’s representation at the next election. References in the new Rules to gender balance were also discussed.
An intermediary report of the ICA European project “Turning the pyramid upside down” was well received by TACIS. As part of the programme a study visit to three countries of consumer co-operative leaders of the Russian beneficiary organisations took place.
Statutory and representative functions
The European Council met twice during 1997, on 21 March in Rome and on 13 September in Geneva.
ICA Europe attended and submitted reports to the ICA Regional Directors’ meetings in Chiangmai and Geneva as well as to the ICA Board meetings in Uganda and Mexico.
Based on the European pilot project on statistics, ICA Europe participated in a workshop arranged for all the Regional Offices to discuss the Global ICA Database programme.
Other meetings attended were the International Workshop on “The co-operative movement within the context of Euro-Mediterranean Partnership”, Bari, Italy; Seminar on the “Co-operatives at the threshold of the 3rd millennium in Romania” organised by UCECOM; 50th Jubilee Meeting of the UN Economic Commission for Europe in Geneva; CEA-COGECA Congress of European Farmers, Lausanne, September; congresses and national conferences in the UK, Latvia, Hungary, Poland, Czech Republic. Visits to members included Moldova, Slovak Republic and Spain.
Five new organisations were admitted as members to ICA during 1997. However, due to financial difficulties, five organisations had to leave ICA, leaving the number of member organisations in the region unchanged: 93 organisations from 36 countries and two international organisations.
Concerns were expressed about losing members. The need for more analysis and preventive measures was emphasised.
Sectoral collaboration included the participation of ICA Europe at the annual meeting of CCACE Presidents and General Secretaries, bilateral consultation meetings with Euro Coop, CECOP and COGECA, as well as participation at the Euro Coop/ICACC seminar “Biotechnology and sustainable consumption”.
CECOP became officially the European Committee of CICOPA as approved by the General Assembly in Geneva.
The Regional Office for Europe was officially established, and from 1 November 1997 Luc Balourdet was seconded by Crédit Mutuel to assist the Office for a period of six months.