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.
Cooperatives as joint enterprises of farmers as an opportunity for the future
- Cooperatives came about among difficult economic and social circumstances in the 19th century as an organisational form which could alleviate farmers’ structural deficiencies when operating as small independent entities. Cooperatives exist today in all EU Member States as well as in other European countries.
- Cooperatives are both associations of individual people and economic enterprises at the same time.
- Cooperatives are the extension of farming as they enable farmers to concentrate their power for the purpose of supplying inputs and material and collecting, processing and marketing members’ produce.
- Cooperatives’s activities are founded on the principles of economic democracy, transparency and solidarity among themselves and with their local rural community.
- Agricultural cooperatives play a vital role in adjusting their members’ production to the requirements of consumers and improving their economic effectiveness and positioning in the marketplace.
- Agricultural cooperatives actively contribute to guaranteeing environmentally-friendly quality products that are made available throughout the whole supply chain.
- Agricultural cooperatives are important rural development operators, actively contributing to economic viability in rural areas, including less-favoured regions, by forming and operating the essential information, economic and service-related rural networks, which constitute the backbone of the European social landscape. They are therefore an important source of direct and indirect employment and of economic growth, thus helping to attain the goals of the Lisbon Strategy.
- Agricultural cooperatives in the EU are an important socio-economic element in the economy and society at large:
⇒ Over 50 % share in the supply of agricultural inputs
⇒ Over 60 % share in the collection, processing and marketing of
Development of the European agricultural cooperative organisations
COGECA’s most important objectives are to:
- represent the general and specific interests of European agricultural, forestry, fisheries and agri-food co-operatives and to contribute to the development of cooperatives in general
- influence decisions which affect agricultural cooperatives’ activities by lobbying the EU’s public institutions and other organisations at EU and international level
- promote the role of agricultural, forestry, fisheries and agri-food cooperatives
- provide a platform for member organisations and cooperatives to hold political discussions and exchange views on policy issues and the added value of agricultural produce and businesses
- seek solutions on important issues of common interest and promote them
- facilitate and coordinate links between its members and its members’ offices in Brussels as well as provide services for cooperative networking
- promote discussions and exchanges of views with the Committee of Professional Agricultural Organisations in the European Union (COPA) in particular, as well as with other representative organisations at EU and international level
- undertake legal, economic, financial, social or other studies of interest to agricultural, forestry, fisheries and agri-food cooperatives.
COGECA as a lobby and a platform for inter-cooperative relationships
COGECA is involved in shaping and further developing all Community policies that create important framework conditions for cooperative enterprises.
COGECA fosters cooperation between cooperative enterprises at European level.
COGECA’s decision-making process
The Praesidium consists of representatives of COGECA’s full member organisations and is the highest decision-making body. It examines and settles all matters within the scope of COGECA’ s objectives. Praesidium positions are taken jointly with COPA whenever they concern the agricultural sector as a whole.
The Praesidium elects a President and four Vice-Presidents from among its members for a three-year term of office. The Presidency of COGECA and COPA together form a Coordination Committee which tries to agree on COGECA and COPA’s common activities and positions.
Cooperative Coordination Committee
This group has the task of preparing the work of the COGECA Praesidium. Its role is also to exchange information, coordinate activities and follow-up the decisions made by the Praesidium. It also coordinates the work of the joint COPA-COGECA Working Parties together with COPA.
COGECA has about 50 Working Parties which address either specific commodity sectors or general/horizontal questions. Most of these Working Parties are constituted jointly with COPA, but COGECA and COPA may also have separate Working Parties.
The purpose of the Biennial Congress, which consists of representatives delegated by the full members, the affiliated and associated members and the partner organisations, is to inform the participants and exchange views on relevant policy areas. It may also make proposals on COGECA’s general policy.
Since 1962, the Secretariat has been operating jointly on behalf of COGECA and COPA. It assures the smooth and efficient functioning of the two organisations and the implementation of decisions taken by the COGECA and COPA Praesidia.
The Secretariat is made up of approximately 50 people of different nationalities. It provides continuous analysis, communication and expert knowledge to its national member organisations and to European cooperatives. To this end it prepares hundreds of Working Party meetings, reports, and working and position papers every year.
In order to promote cooperative interests in Europe, COGECA is member of Cooperatives Europe, the European region of ICA (International Cooperative Alliance).