Sectorial Co-op Organizations in the European Union (1994)

    This document has been made available in electronic format
         by the International Co-operative Alliance ICA 
                         June 1994

               Sectorial Co-op Organisations in the 
                         European Union 

               by Gabriella Sozanski*


Since 1957, nine co-operative sectors have established
umbrella associations at European and/or Community level. The
sectors of consumers, agriculture, pharmacy and retailer-owned
wholesalers in foodstuffs established their respective
organisations between 1957 an d 1963. The banking sector
followed in 1970 and the latest sectors to form European
organisations were insurance (1978), production (1979),
tourism (1984) and co-operative housing (1986).

The preparation of a report by the Committee on Economic
Affairs in the European Parliament on the role of
co-operatives in the European Communities accelerated
prevailing trends for a closer collaboration among European
umbrella organisations. These efforts resulted in an interim
solution in 1982 with the formation of two committees, both
designed to group together the organisations of the main
co-operative sectors.

-    The European Co-operative Inter-sectoral Liaison
     Committee (CLICE) was founded on 18 June 1982 and
     comprised two European co -operative sectors (insurance
     and pharmacies), as well as some central national
     co-operative organisations such as FEBECOOP (Belgium) and
     AGCI, Confcooperative and LEGA (Italy).

-    The Coordinating Committee of EC Co-operative
     Associations (CCACC) was established in April 1983 and
     consists of nine European co-operative organisations from
     agriculture and fisheries (COGECA), consumers (EUROCOOP),
     retailer-owned wholesalers in foodstuffs (UGAL), banking
     and credit (ACB), production (CECOP), insurance (ACME),
     pharmacies (UEPS), tourism (CETOS) and housing (CECODHAS)

Organisational Features

Main administrative body:

a)   Most European co-operative organisations use either a
     general assembly or a steering committee as their main
     administrative body. Two organisations differ from this

b)   Decision-making process

     Out of the nine European co-operative organisations, five
     normally adopt their decisions by unanimity. Two
     organisations decide by majority voting; one by simple
     and one by qualified majority. 

c)   Secretariat and staffing

     The size of the secretariat of European co-operative
     organisations varies substantially. On the one end of the
     scale is COGECA with a large number of staff and on the
     other end there are other organisations with very small
     secretariats. It should be stressed that COGECA shares a
     joint secretariat with COPA, which involves sharing
     personnel and budget.

d)   Budget

     Similar to the variations on the personnel side, there
     are variations with regard to the budget among European
     co-operative organisations.

Channels of Influence 

All European co-operative organisations see the Commission as
their number one target for exerting influence on EC
legislation and/or action. Often, the second most important
target is shared between the European Parliament and the

Economic and Social Committee depending on circumstances
(timing of opinion, reports or studies) of particular policy
proposals. The co-operative and related sectors have, via
their national organisations, 12 members in the Economic and

Social Committee. 

The Nine Sectorial Associations 

Association of European Co-operative and Mutual Insurers

The Association of European Co-operative Insurers (AECI) was
established in 1978 in response to the need to anticipate the

internationalisation of insurance and the coming of the Single
European Market. With the inception of the Single European
Market on 1 January 1993, the Association opened its

membership to all insurers of solidarity economy. It is hence
known as the Association of European Co-operative and Mutual
Insurers - ACME.

ACME is a regional section of the International Co-operative
and Mutual Insurance Federation (ICMIF). Today, it unites 27
groups of European societies (19 from EC and 8 from EFTA
countries) which together insure 26,000,000 families and
employ 140,000 people. This represents a market penetration of

In terms of premium income, ACME represents a share of 8% of
the European insurance market. Several of its members occupy
positions in the forefront of European Insurance companies.
ACME has the following objectives:

-    to favour collaboration and understanding between its
     members in order to facilitate and stimulate their
     expansion in the insurance market;

-    to  inform and organise the exchange of experience and
     expertise between members in commercial and technical

-    to promote the special value of co-operation, the
     application of the co-operative principles in Europe and
     the solidarity with the other sectors of the co-operative

-    to take part in world development by helping
     under-privileged countries to set up their own insurance
     co-operatives or mutuals;

-    to train personnel, develop products, etc. 

Its beneficial influence has moreover been recognised and
praised by the United Nations Conference on Trade and
Development (UNCTAD).

In general terms, ACME encourages the European institutions to
make use of co-operatives' experience by consulting their
representatives and when designing the policies and activity
programmes of the European Union. It will continue to meet in
consultation with the other co-operative sectors every time
community policy implies inter-sectoral consequences, for
example in the area of development aid (both regional and

international), fiscal policy, company law, small and medium
size businesses, etc.

Finally, in parallel with the internationalisation of their
activities, co-op and mutual insurances reflect upon the
future of their relationship with the users according to their

The European Association of Co-op Banks - EACB

The Association of Co-operative   Savings and Credit
Institutions of the European Economic Community was created in
1970. Its foundation was based on the need both to strengthen
collaboration between European co-operative banking groups as
well as to chart a course of   action aimed at defending these
institutions' professional interests on a European-wide scale.
Since 1993, in its daily activities, it has become known as
the EUROPEAN Association of Co-operative Banks, often
shortened to the French synonym of "Groupement".

A membership base of 30 organisations comprises co-operative
banking groups from not only the 12 member states of the EU
but also those of several EFTA and East European countries:
Austria, Finland and Sweden; Bulgaria, Cyprus, Hungary,
Poland, Romania and the Czech Republic.

At the end of 1992, the Association's member organisations
collectively operated almost 60,000 banking points and had
more than 34 million members. A total staff of over 425,000
served close to 70 million customers across Europe. The member
organisations accounted for approximately 17% of the European
savings market.

The  European Association of Co-operative Banks of the EU is
one of the three main representative organisations in the
European credit sector, and is officially recognised as such

by the EU institutions (Commission, European Parliament,
Economic and Social Committee and Council of Ministers),
alongside the organisations representing the commercial and
savings banks.

The ACB has the following objectives:

-    to represent and defend the professional interests of its
     members whenever the initiatives of the European Union
     carry implications for them;

-    to monitor the establishment and application of Community
     schemes to provide finance to their traditional clients
     in the agricultural, fishing, SME and craft industry

-    to work in partnership with the EU Commission on its
     PHARE and TACIS programmes and facilitate the provision

     of experts in technical assistance by its member
     organisations to the savings and credit co-operatives in
     Eastern Europe. A similar role is played under the
     various EU conventions signed with the ACB countries; 

-    to inform the member organisations of legislative and
     other activities in the EU institutions, particularly the
     EU Commission and the European Parliament; 

-    to encourage co-operation and co-ordination between
     individual members on matters of mutual interest.

Decentralised and multi-tiered structures, allied to their
democratic decision-making processes have allowed co-operative
banks to build up the densest banking networks in Europe. The
ensuing proximity to their membership and client bases ensures
that co-operative banks provide financial services which are
skilfully tailored to their member and customer requirements,
thereby securing their key role in the socio-economic fabric
of the Union.

Consequently, the European Association of Co-operative Banks
of the EU represents one of the leading European banking


European Committee on Social Housing - CECODHAS 

Founded in May 1986, CECODHAS is open to national
organisations of housing co-operatives from the European Union
countries. It represents 22 member organisations in 11
countries. and to date 6,800,000 apartments have been
constructed or financed by affiliated organisations. 
Approximately one European out of 5 lives in an apartment 
provided through a member organisation of CECODHAS.

The objectives of CECODHAS are as follows:

*    to represent its members with  all the European

*    to constitute a lobby for the promotion of social housing
     within the EU and member countries; 

*    to facilitate co-operation and mutual support between
     members with the aim of improving the economic, technical
     and social efficiency;

*    to promote the exchange of ideas and experiences;

*    to develop an information service for the benefit of the
     member organisations.

European Committee of Workers' Co-operatives - CECOP

CECOP is a pluralist association, founded in 1979, to
represent and defend its members' interests with the European
Union authorities.

CECOP has 28 member-organisations (18 full and 10 associated
members) from 12 countries representing 50,000 co-operative
societies with 1,000,000 workers (1992).

Recognized as a representative group of SME's with the EU and

as a sub-group of Group III of the Economic and Social
Committee, CECO P works in close collaboration with the unit
of social economy of DG XXIII. It is also a privileged
spokesman of the "social economy" group of the European

The objectives of CECOP are:

-    to represent and take political action vis-a-vis the
     institutions of the European Union in order to develop
     and defend the specific character of production

-    to coordinate the exchange of information and experiences
     between members, inform them on European affairs, and
     form public opinion about production co-operatives;

-    to participate actively in the defense of co-operative
     sectorial interests in its role as member of the
     Coordinating Committee of Co-operative Associations of
     the EU;

-    to maintain close relations with CICOPA (International

     Organisation of Industrial, Artisanal and Service
     Producers' Co-operatives of the ICA);

-    to  coordinate the common action and projects of its
     members and promote the European groupings of
     co-operative enterprises.

European Council of Social Tourism - CETOS

CETOS is the European association of tourism which was set up
in 1984. CETOS is the umbrella organisation for the
co-operatives, associations and mutual aid societies of the
twelve Community countries which work in the tourism sector,
especially those which are active in the area of social
tourism. 3,300,000 beds are available through CETOS. The
annual turnover of member organisations amounted to ECU 7,3
billion in 1989.

CETOS has the following objectives:

-    to represent the general and specific interests of social
     tourism in dealings with the institutions of the

-    to facilitate the information of members on the
     initiatives taken at European Community level in the area
     of tourism;

-    to contribute to the elaboration of a Community policy on

     tourism and particularly social tourism;

-    to maintain contacts with other organisations
     representing co-operative, mutualist, syndical and
     associative interests at Community level;

-    to encourage the exchange of information, of persons and
     services between the member organisations and support all

     joint activities where  necessary.

General Committee for Agricultural Co-operation - COGECA 

COGECA was created on 24 September 1959 by the national
associations of agricultural co-operatives in the various
countries of the E.C. and officially recognized by the
Community Authorities as the spokesman of the agricultural and
fisheries co-operatives at EC level. Since, COGECA is
representing the interests of the agricultural co-operatives
to the Community Authorities and other organisations and
bodies. It represents 12 million members through 40,000
agricultural and fishery co-operatives as well as 720,000
workers (employees). The annual turnover totalled ECU 160
billion in 1989.

COGECA has the following objectives:

In accordance with its statutes, COGECA's main aims are to:

-    to represent the general and specific interests of
     agricultural and fisheries co-ops in discussions with the
     EC Institutions. To this end, COGECA participates in the
     preparation and implementation of a number of Community
     policies amongst which the Common Agricultural Policy is
     in first place;

-    to ensure that any legislation and related measures
     decided at EC level are as practicable as possible for
     co-operatives and provide a feasible framework for this
     specific group of enterprises, to the benefit of member


-    to promote co-operation between co-operatives across
     borders and develop concrete initiatives and actions to
     provide a platform for genuine consultation and
     collaboration between co-operatives;

-    to strengthen the action and position of co-ops, not only
     politically in liaison with the professional agricultural
     organisations but also and, in the first place, improve
     their competitive position on the market so as to enable

     them to put up a countervailing power to the mighty

     multinational companies and their international and

     sometimes worldwide concentration.

Currently, COGECA comprises fourteen full member

organisations. In addition, there are four affiliated member
organisations. Any central and polyvalent national
organisation for agricultural co-operation in the Member
States of the Community may become a full member. It should be
pointed out that the concept Agricultural co-operative
organisation applies in its broad sense, i.e. including
fishery products in accordance with Art.38 of the Treaty of

European Community of Consumer Co-operatives - EUROCOOP

EUROCOOP numbers over 21 million household members in the
European Union and EFTA countries combined and is thus one of
the most representative consumer organisations in the Enlarged
European Area. EUROCOOP was already founded within three
months of the signing of the Treaty of Rome (in 1957) and set
up its office in Brussels in mid-1962.  These 35 years of
existence make it the oldest consumer organisation at EU
level. Its long-standing involvement in EU consumer affairs
and the economic importance and consumer policy experience of
its national member organisations, also make it one of the
most effective.

The main roles of EUROCOOP Secretariat are the following:

-    to promote the economic and social endeavour of members,
     particularly, as regards consumer issues and, official
     representation of members with the European institutions
     in view of better supporting these endeavours;

-    to represent and defend consumer interests at Community

-    to serve as a forum for the regular exchange of
     information and to coordinate the common interests of
     member organisations;

-    to inform the affiliated organisations regarding the
     policy of the European Union and other considerations
     which might affect the operation of consumer

EUROCOOP has 15 full members, out of which 11 are from the
European Union and 4 from the EFTA countries. In addition it
has four associated members representing Central and Eastern

The number of co-operative societies amount to 2,556 serving
21,367,000 individual members and 358,974 employees. Member
organisations run a total of 31,166 shops. Turnover totalled
46,5 billion ECU in 1992.

EUROCOOP has been involved in the activities of several
committees of the European Commission, such as the Committee
for Commerce and Distribution (CCD) as well as in a series of
advisory committees on agricultural market organisations.

European Union of Social Pharmacies - UEPS

Set up in 1961, UEPS brings together various national
organisations which are involved in distributing and
dispensing medicines (wholesale storage and pharmacies open to
the public). UEPS represents 2,500 pharmacies which serve 30
million people belonging to its affiliated organisations. Each
of these organisations accepts without reservation four main

-    independence from the public powers,
-    democratic management,
-    free membership,
-    no profit-making aim.

The total share of UEPS member organisations in the European
market amounts to 10%.

The objectives of UEPS are:

-    to promote the development of co-operative and social

     pharmacies in countries where they exist;

-    to encourage the creation of such pharmacies and related
     activities in countries where they do not exist and to
     help them in proposing measures for eliminating the
     obstacles to their establishment;

-    to defend the prerogatives of its affiliated
     organisations against corporatism in respect of
     distribution, dispensing, production and also in respect
     of Protheses: optics, audiometry and bandages within the
     framework of the Single European Market;

-    to promote health education for the public through
     information campaigns;

-    to promote the recognition of the sector as a partner of
     social economy within the Community institutions  and the
     creation of a friendly environment enabling their

Association of Retailer-owned Wholesalers in Foodstuffs - UGAL

Founded in 1963 UGAL is the European umbrella association for
wholesale co-operative buying and service groups set up by
independent retailers, primarily in the food sector. The
purpose of these buying groups is to ensure  the independent
survival and development of retailers' activities and their

numerous small and medium-sized undertakings by joining
forces, pooling their strength and setting up special

175,000 independent retailers are involved in the activities
of UGAL as well as 710,000 employees. Member organisations run
203,000 retail shops and the annual turnover amounts to ECU
27,490 million (1989).

The objectives of UGAL are:

*    to inform its members and defend their interests by
     adopting positions on issues that are crucial to them and
     promoting the exchanges of experience;

*    to conduct research and gather and disseminate scientific
     information for members about economic and social policy
     issues and organisational problems, both at national and
     international level, particularly within the European

*    to represent the professional interests of members with
     international organisations and specifically with the
     European Community;

*    to provide scientific advice and support its members in
     the co-operative, legal and economic fields.

Coordinating Committee of EU Co-operative Associations (CCACC)
In response to the European Parliament's invitation to them in
April 1983 to co-ordinate and defend their views, the
associations of co-operatives in the EC set up the
Co-ordinating Committee of EEC Co-operative Associations. The
European Parliament, the European Commission and the Economic
and Social Committee have given official recognition to this

The EC co-operative associations represented on the
Co-ordinating Committee wish to foster European common action
between all co-operative organisations and, going beyond their
interests in specific sectors, to forcefully and unequivocally
defend the theory and practice of co-operative business in
their relations with the general public and the authorities.

The specific aims of this co-operation, which are laid down in
a formal agreement, are:

*    to foster the exchange of information between member

*    to hold ad-hoc working meetings;

*    to draw up joint position papers; and

*    to prepare  concrete action of common interest.

List of Acronyms

ACB       Association of Co-operative Banks
ACME      Association of European Co-operative and Mutual
ACP       Africa-Caribbean-Pacific
AECI      Association of European Co-operative Insurers (now
CCC       Consumers Consultative Council CCDA Advisory
          Committee on Foodstuffs
CCACC     Coordinating Committee of EU Co-operative
          Associations CCDCommittee for Commerce and

CECODHAS  European Committee on Social Housing
CECOP     European Committee of Workers' Co-operatives
CEJA      Conseil Europeen des Jeunes Agriculteurs - European
          Council of Young Farmers
CETOS     European Council of Social Tourism
CICOPA    International Organisation of Industrial, Artisanal
          and Service Producers' Co-operatives of the ICA
CLICE     European Co-operatives Inter-sectoral Liaison
CIRIEC    International Centre of Research and Information on
          Public and Co-operative Economy
COGECA    General Committee for Agricultural Co-operation
COPA      Comite des Organisations Professionelles Agricoles
          de la CE - Committee of the Agricultural
          Professional Organisations of the EC
DG        Directorate General
EC        European Commission
EEA       Enlarged European Area
EFTA      European Free Trade Association
EU        European Union
EUROCOOP  European Community of Consumer Co-operatives
ICMIF     International Co-operative and Mutual Insurance
NGO       Non-governmental Organisation
PHARE     Assistance for economic restructuring in the
          countries of Central and Eastern Europe

SME       Small and Medium-sized Enterprise
UEPS      European Union of Social Pharmacies
UGAL      Association of retailer-owned Wholesalers in
UNCTAD    United Nations Conference on Trade and Development

* Ms Sozanski will be joining the ICA permanent staff  in
Geneva on 1 July 1994. She will be working with the European
and Communications Departments.