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Cooperatives Europe Annual Meeting

Opening Speech

Dame Pauline Green Co-President

Colleagues and friends

It is my pleasure to welcome you to the third Annual Meeting of


Cooperatives Europe. It was in Manchester in 2005 that we met and
brought together the national members of the ICA’s Europe region, and
the Brussels based representative bodies of the co-operative business
sectors.

2006 and 2007 were the years in which we established Cooperatives


Europe and put in place the detailed processes that are necessary for any
new business. During 2008, the Executive and the Board moved beyond
the initial set-up phase, and began to drive the work in the direction that
we believe will pay dividends for our members.

On the administrative front, we now have a stable core staff team of six.

We have our own premises – Cooperatives House Europe – which now is


home not just to Cooperatives Europe, but to CECOP, and a new
initiative supported by our Swedish, Danish(?) and Norwegian colleagues
to bring together the European co-operative housing sector, with greater
focus on their shared ‘co-operative’ heritage.

On the financial front, after two years of small deficits as the organisation
established itself, in 2008 we made a Euro 15,000 surplus, allowing us to
begin the process of replacing the funds that we had to take from our
reserves to support the deficits in 2006 and 2007. We were grateful for
the support of the global Board of the ICA in allowing us to use the
reserves which, whilst technically those of Cooperatives Europe, were
actually built up by ICA Europe prior to 2005, and are subject to an
agreement that requires the consent of the global Board before use.

So, you can be confident that we are using your resources well, building a
young, but stable, developing and growing co-operative organisation.

But, what is most exciting is just what Cooperatives Europe is doing!


A lot has happened since 2005, but 2008 was, I believe, the year in which
Cooperatives Europe began to show that it has the potential to fulfil the
hopes and aspirations that we all had when we jointly created it in
November 2005.

A key element of our role is, of course, to influence decision-makers in


Brussels, and that work is ably led by my fellow Co-President Etienne
Pflimlin, who will speak next.

The Executive and the Board of Cooperatives Europe identified several


key areas of work that they believed we should pursue. However, we had
a major constraint on taking this work forward, and that was of course,
that our funding, overwhelmingly derived from the redistribution of a
percentage of your subscriptions to the global ICA, was not sufficient.

Let me be clear, the ICA central office in Geneva has been engaged in a
major reform of its structures and its subscription formula to create an
organisation fit for purpose in the 21st century. Cooperatives Europe was
very supportive of the need for reform, and has played a major part in
supporting a radical change of direction for the ICA, to give more
responsibility, and greater funding to its four regions in Europe, the
Americas, Asia/Pacific and Africa.

As a consequence, over the last four years, we have secured an increase


from 18% in 2004 to 43% this year in the percentage redistribution of
subscriptions with a commitment to reaching 50% within the next two
years. That increase has allowed us to build Cooperatives Europe into a
credible organisation but, it does not allow enough to develop our work
streams as we would like.

The response of the Board of Cooperatives Europe was to develop a


portfolio of possible work streams, for example, activities around climate
change and development, as well as two added value business services in
energy and pharmacy. We then invited our members to invest in those
work streams that best met their co-operative and business objectives.

As a result, we have received additional funding of just over Euro


100,000, with for example:
• Confcooperative in Italy putting up Euro 30,000 to be shared
between energy and pharmacy work.
• The Co-operative Group in the UK putting £30,000 and fully paid
secondment into the office in Brussels for a year, to work on the
climate change initiative, with the potential for that to be developed
into the future.
• Development……..
• Montenegro

The European Union is now a major political and economic body in the
global market. Inevitably some key co-operative businesses across the
world will want to be kept in touch with policy and decisions taken in
Brussels. As a result our colleagues from JA Zenchu the apex
organisation for agricultural co-operatives in Japan, have contracted with
Cooperatives Europe to keep them in touch via reports and the occasional
seminar on developments within the European Union and our region.
This is also an additional source of income.

And, of course, we are currently half way through a second project


funded by the European Commission to explore how the co-operative
model of business can become part of the social partners structure in the
European Union.

I know that Rainer will look more closely at these initiatives, but it is true
to say that we are already identifying some real business benefits for our
members by working together across Europe in this way. Let me give
you a quick example. During the pharmacy seminar hosted in Rome by
Confcooperative, we brought together co-operative manufacturers,
distributors and retailers engaged in the pharmacy business. During the
day, a French manufacturer discovered that it was manufacturing a drug
and distributing it through a private sector business, from whom the
British retailers were buying. Before the day was through, they had an
agreement that the British would buy directly from the French
manufacturer, cutting out the private sector distributor and sharing the
profit margin!

That is the benefit of working together, and there are many more deals
like that waiting to be done. Working with you Cooperatives Europe can
build the opportunities. Working together is a way to develop business
synergies, strengthen and deepen our co-operative sector across the
European continent and give greater profile and visibility to the co-
operative model of business.

Thank you for your support in helping us to make this happen.

Ends.