Co-op movement fights in Poland
A push by a group of Parliamentary Deputies from the majority group in the Polish Government to weaken the country’s co-operative framework has been met with decisive action from the Polish co-operative movement supported by Dame Pauline Green, the ICA’s president, and Felice Scalvini, President of Co-operatives Europe.
The pair made a flying visit to Poland in mid-June to lobby the Polish government and political parties . They promised to write jointly to the European Commission asking it to turn its attention to the move in the Polish Parliament to weaken legislation affecting the co-operative housing sector.
The Polish co-operative sector had been fighting to prevent the adoption of the two pieces of damaging legislation which had the potential to sound the death knell for co-operative housing in Poland. Not only that, but the legislation could also have allowed government to interfere on a bureaucratic level with the governance of the co-operative movement – moving it away from the accepted principles of the global movement.
“..the Treaty of Rome, the founding Treaty of the European Union, specifically identifies the co-operative model of business as a valued and legitimate part of the European economy,” Dame Pauline told a rally of Polish co-operators during her visit. “Any attempt to close down co-operative business by government action should be challenged with the European Union.”
The rally was the first of its kind in Poland, according to its organisers, and attracted a packed audience of 4,500 individuals.
“Our movement is driven by the belief that our model of business is not just an alternative model of business – it is a better way to do business, and we will be working with you to ensure that the co-operative sector of the economy here in Poland does not just continue, but grows and expands into the coming decades,” Dame Pauline told the audience.
Also addressing the rally was Poland’s Deputy Prime Minister Waldemar Pawlak who is also the leader of Poland’s Peasants Party. Dame Pauline and Scalvini later had a private meeting with Pawlak who confirmed his party’s decision to veto the legislation in parliament. As the Minister of Economy and convenor of the EU Council of Economic Ministers, he also invited Dame Pauline to address the forthcoming strategy meeting with the 27 EU ministers to be held in July.
“Colleagues, in a world in which the trust and confidence of so many ordinary citizens has been crushed by the collapse of some of the world’s largest share owning, commercial banks and other financial institutions, it is incredible that, a country such as Poland, which is part of the European Union, and strives for a modern 21st century economy, should be seeking to take action which will diminish the impact of co-operatives on its domestic economy,” Dame Pauline said in her rally speech.
Dame Pauline also had two meetings with government officials, the first with the minister of state at the Prime Minister’s office, the second with the minister of state at the President’s office.
At a lunch that concluded the June visit, Dame Pauline and Scalvini tried to encourage the Polish leadership to take the campaign for a better profile for the movement further, following the success of the rally.
“They have a great opportunity to use the enthusiasm of the members who attended to influence the candidates for election in October's election, and also to activate a good solid base of potential leaders,” said Dame Pauline.