The Secretary General of EuroCoop told Co-op News he advocates for a ‘Single Market’ for consumer co-operatives.
Rodrigo Gouveia said the idea of a European consumer co-operative was not “desirable or feasible.”
He said: “In my view, to face the challenges of growing competition and economic integration in Europe, consumer co-operatives need to develop a strategy of commercial integration at European level.”
He argued that consumer co-ops were more successful where there is bigger economic integration e.g. Finland and Italy.
“That does not mean only one co-operative exists – in Finalnd there are 22 regional co-operatives and in Italy there are nine large regional co-operatives.
“What does exist is a well-structured business proposition whereby consumers have the perception that there is only one economic entity.”
He explained it was important to have a clear definition of what can and should be done regionally and nationally.
He added: “Now, as we move towards a co-operative decade, the question is: what can and should be done at European level by 2020?”
The challenges in increasing European collaboration, he explained, included: different markets, different structures, different products, and different languages.
“In my view, all these can be overcome if there is enough ambition, willingness and vision. The key aspect is that we all share the same values and principles. If we put these common values and principles ahead of everything else, we should be able to find the answers.”
He concluded: “There have been already many initiatives of European integration in consumer co-operatives as early as the 1960s. Some initiatives still exist (e.g. Intercoop, Coop Trading, CoopEuro) and they should be helpful to draw some lessons and avoid repeating some mistakes.”
Read more about Rodrigo Gouveia’s views on co-operative identity, a co-op trademark and misconceptions facing European co-ops here.
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