Co-operators must raise their voice amid Eurozone Crisis

Co-operative financial institutions should play a bigger part in the recovery of the European and global economy; was the key message in a speech made by International Co-operative...

Co-operative financial institutions should play a bigger part in the recovery of the European and global economy; was the key message in a speech made by International Co-operative Alliance President, Dame Pauline Green at a Conference of the European Union Presidency in Cyprus this morning.

Dame Pauline spoke at the 2012 International Year of Co-operatives Conference in Cyprus, a country that became the fifth to seek an international bail out amid the Eurozone crisis, in June this year.

She explained the current European recovery plan hadn't worked yet, and the problems continue to grow across the continent from Greece to Spain.

She added that "co-operative and mutual financial institutions have come through the crisis stronger". Due to their co-op nature, "they most often only lend from member deposits" , and they have seen their assets and deposits grow across the world over the last four years.

In a combative speech Dame Pauline stated: "Co-operative financial institutions have not collapsed. They have not needed recourse to public sector bail out. The taxpayer is not having to support co-operative banks across the world." However, she warned that the European Union proposals to secure the Eurozone could be used to dismantle the successful separate regulatory framework of the co-operative financial institutions in Europe.

“Why build a structure for the failed? Why not learn from the successful – why not build on the existing structure of the successful and mutualise the commercial banks," she asked.

She added that while investor led businesses are obliged by law to maximise their profits “and therefore are compelled to look over their shoulders at their share prices and investor pressures”, co-operatives "are duty bound by our rules to give a good deal to our members".

Dame Pauline, citing movements like Occupy and the Arab Spring, argued that "at a time when young people, whom this recession in so much of the world is hitting so cruelly…are cynical of the political and economic models that dominate their lives, “When they are looking for impact, engagement and fairness, the co-operative is not only an effective governance model, it is a compelling one."

Dame Pauline asked why the co-op movement wasn’t more prominent in discussions on how to revive the European and global economy and “why isn’t it represented on the Board of the World Bank? Or on the B20, the advisory group of businesses that advises the G20?"

She added that the movement has a big job to do in coming months and must look for friends and champions amongst the world's governments who will raise their voice in support of the growth of the co-operative economy and the need for a more diversified global economy".

Referencing the International Year, she said: “It is our aim that on the 31st December 2012 we will be able to move from a successful International Year of Co-operatives to a decade of co-operative growth.”

The conference, which lasts until Saturday, was organised as part of the Cyprus Presidency of the European Union, together with the support of the co-operative movement in Cyprus in celebration of the International Year of Co-operatives.  

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