The International Co-operative Alliance (ICA) is an independent, non-governmental organisation established in 1895 to unite, represent and serve co-operatives worldwide. It provides a global voice and forum for knowledge, expertise and co-ordinated action for and about co-operatives. ICA’s members are international and national co-operative organisations from all sectors of the economy, including agriculture, banking, consumer, fisheries, health, housing, insurance, and workers. ICA has members from one hundred countries, representing one billion individuals worldwide. One hundred million people work for a co-operative locally.
The dynamic force of European farmers and their cooperatives When the Treaty of Rome was signed on 25 March 1957, it already contained the most important framework provisions establishing the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). In recognition of the importance of the agricultural sector, the EU Commission expressed its desire for close cooperation with its representatives at an early stage and invited national agricultural organisations to attend the 1958 Stresa Conference as observers. In response, the first European organisation representing farmers, COPA (Committee of Professional Agricultural Organisations), was created on 6 September 1958. Shortly after, on 24 September 1959, the national agricultural cooperative organisations created their European umbrella organisation – COGECA (General Committee for Agricultural Cooperation in the European Union) – which also includes fisheries cooperatives. COGECA’s Secretariat merged with that of COPA on 1 December 1962. When COGECA was created it was made up of 6 members. Since then, it has been enlarged by almost six and now has 35 full members and 4 affiliated members from the EU. COGECA also has 36 partner members. In line with the recent European Union enlargements, COPA and COGECA have together further reinforced their position as Europe’s strongest farming representative organisations. COPA and COGECA have jointly welcomed 38 national farmer and cooperative organisations from the new Member States. Overall membership of both organisations has thus risen to 76 organisations from the EU Member States. COGECA, now called the “General Confederation of Agricultural Cooperatives in the European Union”, currently represents the general and specific interests of some 40,000 farmers’ cooperatives employing some 660,000 people and with a global annual turnover in excess of three hundred billion euros throughout the enlarged Europe. Since its creation, COGECA has been recognised by the European Institutions as the main representative body and indeed the spokesman for the entire agricultural and fisheries cooperative sector. Fishing cooperatives are active in numerous areas, such as victualling, vessel management and insurance, the fish trade, as well as the marketing and processing of fish. Maritime cooperation in Europe also includes cooperative ship-owners, whose main objective is still to help bring young people into the profession.