CECOP – CICOPA Europe is the European confederation of cooperatives and other employee-owned enterprises active in industry, services and crafts, most of them being worker and social cooperatives. It has 26 members in 15 European countries. CECOP – CICOPA Europe members affiliate approximately 50,000 enterprises employing 1.5 million workers and generating an aggregate turnover of around €50 billion.
Among the main sectors of activity, we find metal industries, mechanical industries, electronics, car industry, food industry, construction and public works, wood industry and furniture, white goods, textiles and garments, transport, media-related activities, education and culture, the environment, tourism, cleaning and sanitation, gardening and landscape, facility management and, over the last two decades, we have seen a major development of social and health services and services to persons, becoming one of the strongest sectors of activity.
Most of the enterprises of the CECOP network are SMEs, while some are large enterprises. We also find several strong horizontal cooperative groups: in Italy, we can mention CCC-ACAM in the construction sector, CNS in the service sector, and CGM among social cooperatives; another example is the well-known Mondragon group in the Basque country (intersectoral but mainly made up of industrial cooperatives), the 7th Spanish entrepreneurial group employing over 100 000 workers.
Most of these enterprises are worker cooperatives and are characterised by the fact that the majority of their staff are members-owners. Around 9,000 of them (employing 270,000 workers) are specialised in the provision of social services or in the reintegration, through work, of disadvantaged and marginalised workers (disabled, long-term unemployed, ex-prisoners, addicts etc), and are generally called social cooperatives. A further 1,000 are second degree cooperatives for small enterprises (truck drivers, taxi drivers, mechanics, masons, etc), and are often called artisans’ cooperatives. Finally, over 6000 are employee-owned enterprises that are not registered as cooperatives, but are very similar to cooperatives by the fact that, in those enterprises as well, worker-members jointly own and democratically control their enterprises.
Cooperatives in industry and services have been active in Europe for around 170 years at least: the first recorded worker cooperative was established in 1833 in Paris among jewellers. Between the end of the 19th Century and the beginning of the 20th Century, worker cooperatives spread all over the continent, including Central and Eastern Europe and the Balkans. The first national federation of worker cooperatives recorded in history is the French one, established in 1884. In 1895, the International Cooperative Alliance (ICA) was established, and in 1947 the ICA’s dedicated body for industrial, service and craft cooperatives, CICOPA, was set up.
CECOP was founded in 1979 in Manchester, and its permanent secretariat was established in 1982 in Brussels. In the second half of the 1990s, it became a full-fledged confederation as well as the European organisation of CICOPA, thereby formally extending its geographical scope to the whole European continent. During the first half of this decade, CECOP actively prepared the ground for the establishment of Cooperatives Europe, the European organisation grouping cooperatives from all sectors, which was founded in 2006 in Manchester.
Thus, CECOP is strongly embedded in the cooperative movement, as shown on the diagram below: it is the sectoral organisation of Cooperatives Europe for industry and services and the regional organisation for Europe of CICOPA, which in turn, is the sectoral organisation for industry and services of the International Cooperative Alliance (ICA).
As a European confederation, CECOP mainly has the following double role:
representation and lobby (mainly with the EU institutions, as well as other European-level organisations, and towards other components of the cooperative movement and of the social Economy at the European level)
networking (coordination of members’ European activities, definition of common strategies and positions, promotion of entrepreneurial development, training and exchanges, data collection and processing, comparative sectoral legislation etc).
In addition, CECOP is involved in fostering the creation and development of national representative organisations of industrial and service cooperatives and other employee-owned enterprises in European countries where these do not exist, in particular by advising governments about policies and legislation aimed at promoting the setting up of those enterprises, and by identifying groups of persons and enterprises willing to establish dedicated federations.