BUCHAREST, Romania — The Romanian Federation of Credit Unions (FEDCAR) and the Ohio Credit Union League (OCUL) last month signed an agreement of mutual support as the newest participants in World Council of Credit Unions' (WOCCU) International Partnerships Program. The partnered organizations will look for ways to continue strengthening Romania's evolving credit union system, in the process addressing perceptions that credit unions' "cooperative nature" echoes conditions from the country's former position under Soviet rule.
An OCUL delegation accompanied by WOCCU staff visiting Romania learned that such perceptions exist largely due to obsolete legislation used to govern the country's credit union movement. FEDCAR officials seek to develop new credit union laws that bring regulatory oversight more in line with requirements from other European Union member countries. Strengthening Romania's credit union system and providing assistance with lobbying are two areas in which the delegation pledged assistance, according to Paul Mercer, OCUL president.
"I am very impressed in the trust credit unions have in FEDCAR, which is one of the system's strongest assets to build a better future," Mercer said. "It's not about size, but about their commitment to serve their members."
Mercer, OCUL Vice President John Florian and Bill Herring, president and CEO of Cincinnati Central Credit Union, joined FEDCAR officials to visit Romanian parliamentarians Alexandru Peres and Corneliu Olar to discuss different approaches to developing the appropriate legislation. WOCCU staff members Brian Branch, executive vice president and COO, and Victor Miguel Corro, senior manager in charge of the International Partnerships Program, were also part of the group.
"One of the first steps toward effective credit union development is making sure appropriate and enabling legislation is in place to help a movement grow," Branch said. "FEDCAR already has a strong organization in place, and our hope is that through its partnership with OCUL, Romania's credit union movement will gain access to the international information resources and support it needs to help it succeed on the legislative front."
FEDCAR, which represents just 17 of Romania's 2,900 credit unions, has already strengthened it member institutions through stringent management training requirements, strong representation and requiring its members to use PEARLS, a financial performance monitoring program first established by WOCCU in 1990. The challenges the movement faces include going beyond a narrow product mix and stabilizing government regulation. Many credit unions not represented by FEDCAR belong to other organizations that lack the association's focus, creating contradictions that dilute the movement's impact before legislators.
The combined group identified three areas of immediate need in which OCUL could help FEDCAR:
The delegation also visited several FEDCAR member credit unions to get a better understanding of the issues facing individual institutions. At the end of the weeklong visit, the formal partnership agreement was signed by Mercer, Branch and Florin Simion, FEDCAR executive director.
"I look forward to a long and close partnership with our friends from Ohio," Simion said. "We will start by pushing for a better law that will allow the movement to grow, modernize and benefit more Romanians. Now is our chance."
The partnership between Ohio and Romania is one of 23 partnerships in the WOCCU program. Learn more about the International Partnerships Program at www.woccu.org/partnerships.
World Council of Credit Unions is the global trade association and development agency for credit unions. World Council promotes the sustainable development of credit unions and other financial cooperatives around the world to empower people through access to high quality and affordable financial services. World Council advocates on behalf of the global credit union system before international organizations and works with national governments to improve legislation and regulation. Its technical assistance programs introduce new tools and technologies to strengthen credit unions' financial performance and increase their outreach.
World Council has implemented more than 290 technical assistance programs in 71 countries. Worldwide, 56,000 credit unions in 101 countries serve 200 million people. Learn more about World Council's impact around the world at www.woccu.org.