2019 Cooperatives Europe General Assembly
On 6th and 7th of June, Cooperatives Europe General Assembly took place in Strasbourg, France, with co-hosts Coop FR at the Le Vaisseau - Discovery Center of Science and Technology in Strasbourg.
The conference “What Europe for tomorrow? The role of cooperatives” welcomed a strong presence of actors and partners from outside the cooperative movement to better understand and position cooperatives in the newly Elected European Parliament as well as explore the challenges and opportunities in a changing Europe with a focus on the reinforcement of shared European and cooperative values.
The second day saw members immerse in the statutory business, including approving the motion from members on reaffirming support for the Social Economy Intergroup in the European Parliament. The 2018 Annual Report was also approved by the members, which can be found in its renewed format here: https://coopseurope.coop/about-us/2018-annual-report
The 2019 General Assembly also hosted the Board meeting, a meeting of the Gender Equality Working Group and a preparatory meeting of the Young European Cooperators Network (YECN), planning the future event with new recruitment of members.
Conference: “What Europe for tomorrow? The role of cooperatives”
Andrea Riccardi, an esteemed guest and a historian, founder of Sant’Egidio community and former minister of international cooperation in Italy, delivered a speech titled “solidarity to face nationalism and globalisation” followed by a discussion with the audience. Riccardi addressed the challenges the world faces today, from democratic crisis and individualism to fundamentalism and brought out the ability of cooperatives to offer solutions through their collective culture, and their commitment to solidarity.
“Solidarity is the antidote of social fragmentation. It is the principle that helps to correct the market. Solidarity is a permanent revolution of the European society. Solidarity is Europe. And with over 140 million member cooperators, solidarity of cooperatives is a massive reality”
Participants also heard from Ariel Guarco, President of the International Cooperative Alliance, who stressed the importance of the international development partnership signed with the European Commission (#coops4dev) that aims to reinforce the cooperative movement capacity to act on international development. Robert Herrmann, Chairman of Strasbourg Euro-Metropole welcomed delegations to the city of Strasbourg – a leading actor in promoting Social and solidarity economy as well as cooperative values in the local communities.
Sebastien Maillard, Director of Jacques Delors Institute delivered an analysis of the 2019 European Elections, bringing out higher citizen participation, yet lack of a major shift of the parliamentary groups. Nevertheless, he highlighted an opportunity for the cooperative movement to become a strong player forging alliances in the new Parliament and inserting the cooperative perspective in areas such as sustainability. Though challenge of promoting participatory democracy remains, Maillard offered his hope for a more social, participative and citizen-based representation from the elected MEPs.
Vendula Couvreur from Idealiste.cz and Alfonso Aliberti of the European Youth Forum then joined the panel to offer the view of the younger generations. Couvreur particularly called for a future of solidarity, climate action and feminism to be reinforced through democracy at work, also calling for better representation of women in leadership positions, also in cooperatives. Aliberti highlighted the importance of tackling rapid technological change especially relevant to today’s youth, and called organisations such as cooperatives to invest in their youth, creating structured space for them and building youth initiatives, giving sustainability to the movements.
Liaising with management school
In the framework of the GA, Coop-Fr organsied a presentation of local cooperatives within the Strasbourg Business school. This business school embeds a collective and participatory approach in its pedagogy. One of the result was the constitution of a cooperative , within the school, to support young students to set up their enterprises, presented by two students. Other cooperative projects from craft and construction sectors were also presented.
Sustainability and cooperation at heart
The 2019 General Assembly was built to be a sustainable event. Delegates received Gobi water-bottles to eliminate single use plastic water bottles, documents were distributed online and repurposed short-lived material in a workshop with Creative Vintage. Participants were also able to enjoy a cultural programme discovering the city of Strasbourg by boat, tasting cooperative wines and enjoy ooperative music entertainment by Jazz band Les Escrocs du Swing.
Thank you to our co-hosts CoopFR for an excellent organisation and hosting of the 2019 General Assembly, and thank you to all participants for the excellent discussions leading us to work towards a strengthened work between the European cooperative movement and the new European Parliament.
All the photos may be found here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/coopseurope/albums/72157709185202578