BRUSSELS, Belgium—Six European credit union organizations and World Council of Credit Unions this week launched the European Network of Credit Unions. The network will serve as a platform for the exchange of information among member organizations and will speak in a unified voice on issues that affect European credit unions.
The network convened its first meeting at a Tuesday breakfast dedicated to presentations on responsible lending held at the Altiero Spinelli Building of the European Parliament in Brussels. European Parliament members Marian Harkin, Ireland, and Jacek Kurski, Poland, co-hosted the event.
"For the past five years we have been working together to create a greater awareness of the contributions credit unions make to the European Union," said Dave Grace, WOCCU vice president of association services who also serves as the network's vice president. "This is a historic day for European credit unions because the network will strengthen the role credit unions play in providing important financial service alternatives to European citizens."
More than 40 people attended the breakfast meeting, including 14 members of the European Parliament, four members of the European Commission and three from the Council of Ministers. Speaking to the topic of responsible lending were Grzegorz Bierecki, second vice chairman of WOCCU's board of directors and president of the National Association of Cooperative Savings & Credit Unions (NACSCU), WOCCU's member organization in Poland; and Mick McAteer, director of the United Kingdom's Financial Inclusion Centre, an independent research and policy innovation think-tank dedicated to promoting fair, affordable financial services and an efficient, accountable financial system.
Both speakers stressed the importance of operating with sound lending practices, especially in light of the ongoing global economic crisis. Credit unions have an important role to play in maintaining economic stability, especially on their members' behalves, the speakers said.
"In analyzing the causes of the financial crisis, it is clear one of the focal points has been the provision of unsustainable credit," said Bierecki. "Credit unions have not been involved in the subprime market in the European Union. Instead, credit unions have operated with sound regulatory and internal standards in place that guarantee responsible lending to members."
The response to the session, as well as the network's formation, was positive among officials present at the breakfast. "We welcome the launch of a new organization representing credit unions in Europe and look forward to working with them," said Malcolm Harbour, chair of the European Parliament's Internal Market and Consumer Protection Committee.
In addition to WOCCU and NACSCU, WOCCU member groups that participate in the network include the Association of British Credit Unions, Ltd. (ABCUL); the Central Federation of Romanian Credit Unions (FEDCAR); the Estonian Union of Credit Cooperatives (EUCC); the Irish league of Credit Unions (ILCU); and Macedonia's FULM Savings House. The six European organizations represent more than 1,000 credit unions serving 5.5 million members.
For more information on the network, its goals and objective, visit www.creditunionnetwork.eu.
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, 51,000 credit unions in 100 countries serve 196 million people. Learn more about World Council's impact around the world at www.woccu.org.