The response of Europe's cooperatives to the economic downturn
The current economic crisis has forced governments to consider new economic and social measures, while the European Commission and social agents, including co-operatives, all agree as to the urgent need for co-ordinated action at an EU level to supplement and support actions taken within the Member States.
In response to this challenge, the representatives of Europe's co-operative movement met up in Sofia, Bulgaria, on 22 and 23 June with one specific aim: to showcase the strengths of co-operative enterprises which, even during a time of crisis, offer a democratic system and an innovative dimension. Co-operatives are the protagonists of a genuine movement for fair and sustainable development. Their merits were officially recognised by the President of the European Commission, José Manuel Durão Barroso, in a letter addressed to the Co-Presidents of Co-operatives Europe.
The conference in Sofia, entitled "The Co-operative Response to the Economic Downtourn" placed its emphasis on unity and co-operation among trade unions, social enterprises and co-operatives, set out best practice in order to protect jobs and avoid an increase in social inequalities, while promoting dialogue and co-operation among social interlocutors.
The President of the IHCO and Vice-President of the Espriu Foundation, Dr. Jose Carlos Guisado, was involved at the assembly, and took the chance to meet up with Alain Coheur, President of Social Economy Europe; and with Bruno Roelants, Secretary-General of CICOPA, the International Organisation of Industrial, Artisanal and Service Producers' Co-operatives.
The event ended with the drafting of a manifesto addressing the institutions of the European Union and setting out the main aspects discussed during the conference.
Photo: Pauline Green, co-president of Cooperatives Europe, at the opening of the Sofia Conference