SP goes in to bat for co-ops

16 November 2010

SP goes in to bat for co-ops

During a meeting organized today in the European Parliament on the role of co-operatives, representative of the European Commission Michel Barnier announced that concrete proposals were being developed designed to adjust European legislation which was disadvantageous to the interests of such groups. It was agreed that before the summer of 2011 a ‘wish-list’ would be provided which Commissioner Barnier and others will be able to use in the framework of the proposed European Social Business Act.

Participants in the meeting in the European Parliament included representatives of the co-operative Rabobank, Eurocoop, Dutch housing co-op AEDES and ethical investment group PGGM. Together with numerous cooperative enterprises and institutions the SP intends to organize a series of follow-up meetings in the spring, during which this ‘wish-list’ will be discussed and developed. Euro-MP Dennis de Jong says that “the Commission should ensure that in all aspects of EU policy, and especially when it comes to competition policy, regulations are adjusted to take into account specific properties of co-operative enterprises. As things stand these too often turn out to be disadvantageous, or co-operatives are simply forgotten.”

Co-operative enterprises are membership organisations which seek to profit from their activities but do not make this their goal, instead seeing it as a means to an end. It is striking how well these sorts of enterprise have done during the financial crisis. Supermarket chain Coop Nederland increased its turnover by almost ten per cent in 2008, for instance. Rabobank survived the crisis without state support and saw client confidence rise in 2009 from 40- to 50%. “Co-operatives are certainly an answer to the crisis” says De Jong, `and there is every reason to promote the cooperative model.”

Up to now co-operatives have attracted little attention, rarely figuring on university courses in economics or law, for example. During the meeting representatives of PGGM asked why governments did not make use of co-operatives when public services were put out to tender. De Jong agreed with the sentiment behind the question. “Why was PTT Post not transformed into a cooperative? Workers and consumers would have been better off if that had been the case.”

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