SOPOT, Poland — Grzegorz Bierecki, president and CEO of the National Association of Cooperative Savings & Credit Unions (NACSCU), Poland's credit union trade association and a member of World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU), was elected to his country's parliament during Sunday's nationwide elections.
Bierecki, who also serves as WOCCU first vice chair, was elected as a Law and Justice Party senator representing Biała Podlaska, a town located in eastern Poland. It is Bierecki's first election to public office.
"As a senator, I can initiate as well as participate in the legislative process," said Bierecki, who reportedly defeated his opponent by a 50% margin. "I can promote changes to the Cooperative Act and the Credit Union Act, as well as other important financial sector regulation."
Bierecki's new role as senator is not considered a full-time obligation. The veteran executive will continue to serve in his capacities both with NACSCU and WOCCU.
Bierecki was a former staff member of Lech Wałęsa's Solidarity Party, which helped reestablish Poland's credit union movement in partnership with WOCCU in 1989. The movement has since grown to one of the most successful in the world. Currently, Poland's 59 credit unions, operating under a unified marketing brand and from a central back-office platform, support 1,852 branches and serve 2.2 million members nationwide.
Despite banking industry opposition, Poland's credit unions have long enjoyed public and government support as the country's only locally owned financial institutions. Last year's tragic death of Polish President Lech Kaczyński, a long-time credit union advocate and former president of the Foundation for Polish Cooperative Savings and Credit Unions, eliminated one of the movement‘s chief government champions. Kaczyński's death hastened Bierecki's run for election, according to the new senator.
"Credit unions gained a strong voice in the senate on Sunday," Bierecki said.
Poland's credit unions have always effectively represented their member's interests, and Bierecki's election takes political involvement to a new level, according to WOCCU President and CEO Brian Branch.
"Sunday's election was a huge victory for credit unions both in Poland and worldwide," said Branch, who last week led an engagement program of U.S. credit union league and association executives to NACSCU headquarters to study the Polish credit union system. "We are thrilled by the results of the election and happy that Poland's credit unions once again have a powerful champion in the government who will be working on their behalf."
WOCCU will be holding this year's World Credit Union Conference July 15-18 in Gdańsk, Poland. For more information, visit www.letsgdansk2012.org.
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, 57,000 credit unions in 103 countries serve 208 million people. Learn more about World Council's impact around the world at www.woccu.org.