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Cooperative financial tools: contributing to the long-term development and wealth generation

19 July 2013 [ English ] français ]

CECOP has welcomed the European Commission’s Green Paper and consultation on long-term financing of the European economy since cooperative enterprises of its network naturally contribute to the long-term development and wealth generation perspective, in particular according with the 3rd cooperative principle. Its purpose is to start a broad debate about how to foster the supply of long-term financing and how to improve and diversify the system of financial intermediation for long-term investment in Europe.

According to the 3rd cooperative principle, the members of a cooperative contribute equitably to the capital of the enterprise, while having an equal participation in the ownership. The fact that each member holds a portion of the share capital of the cooperative makes each member responsible for the future of his/her own enterprise. While a part of the annual surplus, which is redistributed to members as a year-end adjustment of the price of their transactions with the cooperative (and not as a dividend on their financial participation), another part of the surplus is usually earmarked for a reserve fund, which is the common property of the cooperative. These reserves illustrate the natural contribution of cooperatives to long-term wealth generation: the reserves allow cooperatives to go beyond the short-term emergency measures when the crisis comes (such as temporary wage reductions etc), and to adopt measures oriented towards the long-term, such as investment in innovation, technology or other structural changes in the production process.

In its position, CECOP suggested the development and creation of European instruments that operate in a similar way as the non-banking financial instruments created by cooperative federations at the national level. These are not only financial institutions but real development agencies providing “patient” investment (over 10 years). The Italian model of cooperative development, financed with endogenous resources and mandatory funds, offers a particularly good model to adapt at the European level. It would be an effective way to set up a well-capitalized fund acting as a financial interface between financial markets and cooperatives, with traditional private equity characteristics (annual returns and capital gains) mainly in venture capital, without acquiring the majority and with prospects for output to be generated gradually over the medium term, and with careful and constant monitoring. Such a European fund could facilitate the internationalization of cooperative enterprises and the creation of networks of European business.

Moreover, CECOP recommends that the EU stimulates member states to simplify and make the issuance of bonds by SMEs less expensive but also to create funds, which would purchase bonds issued by SMEs and sold by non-bank financial intermediaries. CECOP insists that limiting the intervention capacity of equity funds investing into the short term should be strictly controlled in the EU. Equity funds require profitability rates which go beyond what is sustainable in the real economy and can destroy enterprises through such financial pressure.

CECOP answer to the European Commission consultation on the Green Paper “Long-term financing of the European economy” : http://www.cecop.coop/IMG/pdf/cecop_answer_green_paper_long-term_financing_en.pdf

Green Paper on long-term financing of the European economy: http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=COM:2013:0150:FIN:EN:HTML